Cuba Tourist Board: ready for a successful winter season
The Cuban Tourist Board hosted nearly 200 travel advisors and industry executives on Thursday evening (October 20) at Palace of Weddings and Congresses of Treport in Toronto to update the industry on a “new and better Cuba”.
This included the island’s new advertising campaign, a travel app, a new specialty program, new destinations, more flights and improved services.
Unica Cuba Party, the tourism board’s first live event in three years, began with a trade show, where travel advisors had the opportunity to meet fourteen major Canadian tour operators, airlines and hotel partners, including Air Canada Vacations, Barcelo Hotel Group, Be Live Hotels, Blue Diamond Resorts, Gaviota Hotel Group, Gran Caribe Hotels, Hola Sun, Kempinski Hotels, Melia Hotels International, MGM Muthu Hotels, Sirenis Hotels, Sunwing Vacations, Swoop and Transat.
The evening continued with dinner and a presentation featuring live music from cuban salsa and dancers from Cuba who gave guests a taste of Cuban rhythms.
“It’s a beautiful and incredible evening” Lessner Gomez, director of the Cuban Tourist Board in Toronto, told the audience. “The country is emerging better and better, modern and sustainable, ready to host the Canadians for another successful winter season.”
As part of his thanks to the travel industry, Gomez shared that Canadian arrivals have increased to Cuba this year, totaling 340,876 so far, and that the winter season is expected to go the same way as in 2019.
In an interview with paxGomez shared that Cuba has used the past two years to improve tourism infrastructure, including renovating many hotel properties.
Since the start of this year, Cuba has lifted all COVID-related travel restrictions, and excursions and nighttime entertainment have resumed. The country is open and all facilities are fully functional, Gomez said.
Gomez shared with pax that the tourist board currently sees more than 100 flights per week from Canada to Cuba and expects this figure to increase further with continued trade support.
“It is very important to thank our Canadian tour operators and airlines for the support and hard work they have given Cuba during this difficult time, especially our travel agents,” he said.
Gomez specifically cited the efforts to increase airlift post-pandemic by Air Canada Vacations, Hola Sun/Caribe Sol with OWG Airlines, Sunwing, Transat, and Westjet.
Swoop Airlines will begin its seasonal, non-stop service between Toronto and Varadero on January 11, 2023.
Among the biggest improvements around the island are Wi-Fi and internet service. Gomez shared with pax that to date, Wi-Fi infrastructures have been installed in nearly 85% of hotels in Cuba.
Currently, more than 347 hotels offer free Wi-Fi access in their hotel lobby, pool areas and in some rooms. There is also free WiFi in most VIP sections of the airport.
By the end of 2023, 100% internet connectivity should be achieved, according to the tourism board.
Gomez updated the public on changes to the island’s currency, where the The CUC has been withdrawn from circulation and payment can now be made in resort areas with debit or with Visa credit cards (no cash).
Prepaid cards are available in most hotels and tourist establishments in Cuba for visitors who do not have a credit card.
Tourists only need the Cuban Peso (CUP) if they are traveling outside the tourist areas. They can exchange their Canadian dollars for CUPs at airports, banks, hotels and exchange houses (CADECAS).
Advance Travel Information Site
The Cuba Tourist Board says arriving passengers in Cuba could become easier.
By using the new D’VIAJEROS websitepassengers will be able to complete the health certificate and customs declaration 48 hours before arrival, which will make the airport process more efficient.
Tourist cards are still distributed on planes. However, Lessner hinted that this may change soon.
New destinations and hotels
This winter, there are new destinations and hotel openings in different parts of the country, including:
- Hotel El Tesoro del Atlantico by Gaviota Hotel Group will be the first resort to open in an all-new destination called Peninsula of El Ramon de Antilla. This region is known for its secluded beaches and its proximity to the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park and the protected natural areas of Pinares de Mayari and Cayo Saetia.
Jardines del Rey area (served by Cayo Coco airport)
- The Gran Aston Paredon Hotel by Aston Hotels is a brand new island that just opened, nestled between Cayo Coco and Cayo Cruz, approximately half an hour from the Cayo Coco airport, where guests can enjoy this pristine beach and spectacular for which Cuba is known, laid back atmosphere and water sports.
- The Mystique Regis Havana by Royalton Hotels
- Sol Caribe Beach by Melia Cuba Hotels with 393 rooms.
- At the beach of Ancon, the five stars Melia Trinidad Peninsula by Melia Cuba Hotels will add 400 rooms to the Trinidad destination.
Destination Cayo Largo
- On November 4, an improved Cayo Largo destination will reopen for Canadian travellers. All hotels will be managed by Blue Diamond Complexesand they will be completely renovated and ready for the winter season.
- David WrightSales Manager, Ontario and Atlantic Canada for sunwing shared with pax the excitement of the business of having eleven hotels on the island, ranging from large-scale properties to smaller villa-type accommodations. Sunwing will serve Cayo Largo with direct flights from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec Cityand Halifaxas well as flights from Toronto and Montreal from November 4, 2022.
- In addition to offering the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, Cayo Largo offers a variety of water sports including snorkeling from shore, fishing, scuba diving to enjoy coral reefs and wrecks, catamaran cruises, and more.
- The tourist board suggests those wishing to see more of Cuba and visit the mainland take day trips to Havana, a 35-minute flight away.
Travel Specialist Certification Program
It was also announced that a hybrid Cuba Travel Specialist Certification Program will be launched in 2023.
Upon successful completion of the program, travel counselors will receive the following benefits:
- Certificate of graduation as a Cuba Specialist presented personally by the Ministry of Tourism of Cuba
- VIP on arrivals and departures at all airports in Cuba
- VIP invitation to most FAM TRIP by Cuba Tourist Board
- Free upgrade at all hotels in Cuba
- Discount on local excursions while visiting Cuba
- Annual recognition to the top seller to Cuba with a one-week all-inclusive vacation prize
- Top sellers Agents will be listed at www.gocuba.ca
Tourist guide App
A new app was also announced. It is expected to be released at the end of 2022.
This app serves as a tourist guide for clients and travel consultants to find out more about Cuba’s different destinations. With this application, they can build their itinerary, reserve tours, hotels, and other services, and make other reservations.
Launched earlier this year, the tourism board shared that a new marketing campaign will be in full swing by the end of the year.
UnicaCuba promotes the unique character of the country, its distinctive culture, its history, its traditions, its beaches, its nature, its safety and, most importantly, its unique people as the best ambassadors of Cuban tourism.
Throughout the campaign, Cuba aims to show how it combines tradition and modernity and is a warm and welcoming country for international tourists and business travelers.
Gomez concluded, “Unica because of the Cuban people; it is the Cuban people who make Cuba Unica”.