Cuba's Minister of Tourism Juan Carlos Garcia Granda met with travel partners and media in Toronto on Thursday (June 9) as he wrapped up a visit to Canada – a tour, dedicated to launching Cuba’s new “Única” campaign, that also included a stop in Montreal.
On June 7, industry pros in Montreal gathered aboard the Bateau-Mouche, which took on Cuban tones for the occasion, and on Thursday (June 10) in Toronto, attendees met the Minister in the city’s Yorkville neighbourhood at Sassafraz restaurant.
Already a well-known destination with superb beaches, Cuba wants to promote its cultural assets further.
“We would like you to consider the destination differently,” the minister said during his visit in Montreal.
The new Única campaign fits precisely into this objective.
According to the minister, the Cuban people are the best ambassadors of Cuban tourism, with their culture, pride, friendliness and joie de vivre – all of which make the destination unique (Única).
Mr. Garcia Granda spoke of other things that make Cuba Única, including its network of theatres, its museums, its cigars – "the best in the world!" – its nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, its six biosphere reserves and its 14 national parks.
2.5 million visitors in 2022
"We hope to reach a target of 2.5 million visitors in 2022," said the Minister.
And of course, Canadians are called upon to play an important role in achieving this objective.
The minister, however, pointed out that in 2021, Canada lost its first place in terms of tourist visits to Cuba – for the first time since 1994. It was Russia that dethroned it – a situation that could change, however, due to the war with Ukraine.
The Minister indicated that, currently, 57 flights connect Canada to Cuba each week. In itself, this is not bad, but “it is not enough to achieve our goal,” he said.
The Minister would like to see the return of 90 weekly flights for next winter.
Mr. Garcia Granda also acknowledges that Cuba opened its borders later than other destinations, which may have put it at a competitive disadvantage.
"The objective of this visit is to recover this market share that is so essential, as the Cuban economy is based on tourism," he stressed.
New & improved Cuba
The Minister welcomed the fact that, despite the pandemic, the Cuban construction sector grew by 4.5 per cent.
Thus, several port repairs and improvements have been accomplished, he said.
As well, 2,254 new rooms have been built and hotel facilities in Havana have been remodeled, he said.
As for Cuba’s 10 international airports, a free 30-minute internet service has been set up to improve the experience on arrival.
In addition, the country’s fleet of rental cars has also been renewed in order to promote better exploration of the country's attractions and promote new experiences.
The pandemic has also spawned beneficial innovations, Mr. Garcia Granda pointed out, referring, in particular, to the creation of the D'Viajeros platform (which eliminated paper copies such as the customs declaration form and the affidavit of travel health).
In addition, a pre-check-in application is currently being developed, he said.
It will aim to validate information such as the match between the name on an airline ticket reservation and the passport, but also ensure the confirmation of a reservation and room number.
Cuba continues to emphasize its security aspect. With regard to health measures, restrictions have been eliminated at border crossings.
Nevertheless, visitors are still asked to follow the health and hygiene protocols in more than 3,300 certified tourist facilities.
The island prides itself on having managed to reach "one of the highest levels of vaccination in the world,” said the Minister, who said that 99 per cent of the population is completely vaccinated and that 85 per cent have received the dose.
Juan Carlos Garcia Granda also praised the hard work of Cuban scientists and doctors, who have developed their own vaccines.
With files from Marie-Ève Blanchard.