Vaccine tourism is projected as one of the incentives that move travelers this year. Several countries are planning this initiative as a strategy to promote tourism, among them Cuba stands out. The small Caribbean island is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Caribbean, in which attractions such as Cayo Santa María stand out, whose beaches were in the second position in the list of the best 25 beaches in the world according to the Travelers Choice 2021 selection Best of The Best, organized by Tripadvisor. The list also includes the famous beach resort of Varadero, one of the best known and most visited destinations on the island.
Cuba has extensive development in the field of biotechnology that dates back to the 1980s, and has relevant achievements in this sector, such as the polio vaccine. Today, eight of the eleven vaccines administered to Cuban children are manufactured on the island. Cuba has developed several drugs that have proven to be very effective in treating patients who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, and has full capacity to supply such drugs like Interferon alpha 2B. The island currently has four vaccine candidates, of which two are in the 3rd phase of clinical trials, with encouraging results so far.
Cuba thus plans to become the first Latin American country to develop its own vaccine against covid-19 and intends to use this achievement as a platform to boost tourism this year.
The economist Yaffe – an economist specialized in Cuba at the University of Glasgow and author of the book We are Cuba – who visited Havana in January and has spoken with the managers of the so-called scientific poles where the biotechnology laboratories are located, confirms in an interview with the newspaper La Vanguardia that “they are going to offer vaccines for all tourists and visitors to the island.”
The Soberana 02 vaccine candidate, the most advanced of the 4 that Cuba develops, does not have to be stored at very low temperatures, so it is more viable for developing countries than other vaccines that are applied in the world such as the Pfizer.
The executives of BioCubaFarma, the state business group responsible for research and development of vaccines, calculate that once the testing phase is concluded and the efficacy of the vaccine is demonstrated, Cuba can manufacture 100 million doses in 2021, enough to protect the more than 11 million Cuban citizens and also export the vaccine to other countries.
Canada is the main source of tourists to the island, however, the news may create expectations among American tourists, since Biden has announced a relaxation of some of the measures in the framework of the economic embargo imposed by the United States government to the Island, in particular the one that prohibits Americans from traveling freely to Cuba. In this way, American travelers could become the tourists who benefit the most from the Cuban strategy.
Although the vaccine has not yet finished the testing phase, the single announcement has already moved the springs. Tour operators from all over the world are already emerging to promote a type of tourism that is emerging as one of the most attractive this year.
Raymundo Flores, general director of the wholesaler Universe Travel in Mexico City, commented to Entorno Turístico that it is already working with its operators on these specialized plans “We are training and preparing to promote these plans, we see it as a great opportunity, a light to the end of the tunnel, since people want to travel, they want to enjoy life, but without health it is a permanent fear […] on the other hand, it is a way of telling the world that it is safe to travel to this country (Cuba), we hope to have good news for the end of March. We thought that the first country to report this would be Russia, but Cuba not only got ahead, but it will have fewer restrictions from countries of the Americas as its first clients. “
Barbados joins the initiative of Vaccine Tourism
Barbados has also made its policy for this year official to vaccinate all tourists who decide to visit that country. Barbados is one of the leading countries in the vaccination campaign for its own citizens when more than 12.5% of the population has already received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The government of the Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, hopes to have its entire population fully vaccinated by the end of April.
Unlike Cuba, Barbados does not have technological development in the biopharmaceutical field, nor an industrial development pole related to the manufacture of vaccines. Their strategy is another, to acquire the vaccines already established in the market and offer them to tourists as an incentive for their trip.
People who are on the island in late April or early May 2021 will be immunized with the vaccine, whether or not they are citizens of Barbados, the official Barbados tourism authority said in an email.
Although no further details have been given at the moment, the travelers who could have a preference could be those who already are in Barbados with programs like the one-year Barbados Welcome Stamp. Other travelers that would be given priority could be long-stay tourists and “snowbirds”.
The first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Barbados as a donation from India.
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