Cuba targets return of direct flights in UK push

Cuba tourism chiefs say the return of direct flights from London is key to restoring the UK’s pre-pandemic position as the island’s top European market.

Mayte Suarez, recently-appointed director of the Cuba Tourist Office and counsellor of tourism in the UK, said lobbying efforts were ongoing to restore air links previously operated by Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook.

The UK is currently the seventh ranked source market for Cuba, having previously been second on the list behind the established leading market of Canada.

Suarez said: “Tui is operating to Varadero from Manchester and we are seeing strong demand, but we are working hard to re-establish direct flights from London first to Havana and also to Holguin.

“The British market is increasingly willing to fly via a second country and airlines such as Air France and Air Europa are proving popular, but we are seeing stronger recovery from Germany, France, Italy and Spain and this is because they all have direct flights.”

Suarez said Cuba’s successful approach to dealing with the pandemic and its reputation as a “safe and secure” destination meant it appealed to UK visitors.

The island has no restrictions on entry, other than the extension of a previous requirement to hold travel insurance to include a stipulation that Covid cover is included.

PR and marketing executive Isabel Jimenez said the destination had also used the enforced pause during the pandemic to invest in its tourism product, with an increased focus on the luxury segment and five-star hotels.

It is also aiming to promote its unique experiences in a global campaign this autumn, including a focus on products outside the core “sun and sand” experiences including diving, wedding and honeymoons, eco-tourism and accessible tourism.

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