Cuba and Mexico, hit by severe natural disasters this fall, would ordinarily welcome more than 2.5 million Canadians between them this coming year, most during the first four months of 2018.
But tourism services in both countries—Cuba battered by Hurricane Irma, and Mexico by two massive earthquakes—are on edge, wondering if the anticipated flow of foreign visitors will dry up given the images of mass destruction that were transmitted out of their countries in September.
Let’s take them one at a time.
Despite the dramatic pictures of gigantic surf breaking over Havana’s Malecón (the iconic waterfront esplanade), and the flooding along the entire north shore of this tourism-dependent country, most hotels, restaurants, rum and cigar factories, and historic sites are expected to be fully operational and ready for the winter season beginning in December.
Though news of Irma forced a spate of hotel cancellations for early 2018, the cleanup and refurbishment of facilities along the entire north shore has been quick, and according to Caribbean tourism officials monitoring the pace of reconstruction, near normal activities and services can be anticipated for the duration of Cuba’s high winter season.
The major downside for Cuba is, in fact, not a weather event, but the creeping reinstatement of embargoes by the US, reversing what was expected to be a continuation of American tourism growth. However, it should be noted that many US-based cruise ships that started up tours to Cuba in 2016 have vowed to continue their trips. That’s good news for Cuban families, who do rely on tourism and need help recovering from Hurricane Irma’s wrath.
The Canadian government’s travel warnings for Cuba at this point continue to urge travellers to the tourist regions of Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria to “avoid non-essential travel” due to some lingering effects of Irma, though facility reports expect those areas to be cleared by December and beyond.
Nonetheless, you need good, current information about the state of facilities at any resort you are considering this winter before making non-refundable deposits.
And most important, Cuba requires proof of supplemental health insurance sufficient to cover any medical emergency while on the island. If you don’t have proof on arrival, you may be required to purchase private insurance from Cuban vendors on site. And you will not be allowed to leave the island unless your medical bills are paid, or vouched for by your travel insurer.
In Mexico, the story is more complicated, as two earthquakes of 8.1 and 7.1 severity (on September 7 and 19) demolished many buildings and historic sites just south of Mexico City and in southwestern Mexico (particularly the tourist areas of Oaxaca), killing over 300 people. Recovery here is going to take a long time and you need to pick your vacation locales with care.
In addition, Travel Canada urges travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to the northern states abutting the US border and the western state of Guerrero (particularly Acapulco), as drug cartel activity and kidnappings remain an imminent danger to innocent bystanders.
Fortunately, neither the drug-related violence nor the earthquake have affected Cancun or Cozumel on Mexico’s Caribbean coast—the area that attracts most Canadians during the high winter season.
But here too, travel insurance is a must, as quality medical care is expensive. If you find yourself in hospital in Mexico, you will be expected to either pay your bills on the spot or have sufficient proof and verification of private travel insurance—and your provincial health card just won’t do.
Planning a winter escape? Start browsing your travel insurance options.