Tourists are arriving in Cuba after almost two years of pandemic sluggishness

U.S.A.Tourists are arriving in Cuba after almost two years...

File image of a family loading their suitcases into the car after arriving from the US at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba. November 16, 2021. Reuters / Alexandre Meneghini

HAVANA, Nov 25 (Reuters) – Tour operators in Cuba were relieved this week after the first arrivals in months of tourists who bought mojitos and took pictures in old cars in Havana in an injection of life to the domestic economy were too vulnerable. Went. from the pandemic.

Cuba has vaccinated almost its entire population with its own injections, which allowed borders to reopen last week after a gap of nearly two years.

Infections across the country have dropped dramatically in recent weeks, according to official figures.

It was a sunny November at La Bodeguita del Medio, the restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of the mojito cocktail, when waiters dressed in shorts and T-shirts made mint drinks for mostly European tourists.

Tour guide Ernesto Hechevarria, 55, told Reuters outside the bar, once frequented by American novelist Ernest Hemingway, that foreign visitors would bring the capital to life.

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“Tourism is the engine of the Cuban economy. Tourism moves restaurants, cafes, those selling handicrafts,” he said. “Now the economy is starting to revive,” he said.

Authorities on the Caribbean island closed schools, entertainment venues, as well as restaurants, and significantly curtailed flights to the country for nearly two years due to the pandemic, adding to an economic crisis that led to shortages of food and medicine. There has been a shortage.

“Everything was frozen, there was nothing to eat, nothing. Now, slowly, one returns to their level,” said Dayana Siloche, a handicraft seller from Havana.

Tourists were equally delighted, taking pictures in the squares and surrounding streets of central Havana.

Spanish tourist Ignacio Pindado strolled through the central Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, excited about the opportunity to leave Spain and visit once again.

“The fact of being able to come here and be able to reopen international borders like in Cuba is amazing,” he said.

(Reporting by Reuters TV and Nelson Acosta; Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lerida; Reuters NAB JLL /)

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