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Last week, on Friday, Cuba received its first planeload of tourists since the country went into lockdown due to the pandemic.
The island opened its borders after months as part of its gradual return to a new normal. The import-dependent country had been forced into a financial crisis due to tough US sanctions and then the COVID-19 outbreak.
The arrival of travellers is looked upon as a hopeful sign for the country which had laid-off tens of thousands of leisure industry employees, and shut down small businesses in the tourism sector.
It is hoped that the tourists who landed midday in an Air Canada plane at the Cayo-Coco airport on the northcentral coast will be the first of many.
According to Air Canada Vacations, bi-weekly flight services will be set up beginning next month. Cuba had closed all its airports in March due to the pandemic. Currently, only a few hotels in isolated areas like Cayo-Coco have been opened following international sanitary regulations. There is no indication when Havana and other major cities might allow foreign travellers.
The US has a ban in place restricting residents from making tourist trips to Cuba as part of its decades-old trade embargo, but US citizens travel to the Caribbean island for education and other purposes. Canada is Cuba's biggest tourist provider, accounting for 1.1 million of the 4.2 million arrivals in 2019. The revenue generated from tourism amounted to $2.6 billion last year.
Cuba has reported nearly 4,300 COVID-19 cases to date and 100 deaths. While the government managed to control the pandemic in most parts of the country, a new outbreak in Havana, along with lesser outbreaks in a few other provinces stands as an issue.
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