Cholera outbreak fails to scare tourists away
Travel providers that handle U.S. and foreign tours to Cuba are furious over attempts by at least one Washington law-makerto use Cuba’s ongoing cholera epidemic as a tactic to keep tourists away.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Castro regime has been “secretive, deceitful and uncooperative with international health officials” — and that “lives have already been lost in Cuba because of the regime’s policy of keeping these issues in the dark, so as not to scare away tourists and their hard currencies.”
To date, the government has confirmed 170 cases of cholera and three deaths.
“We believe that the right-wing Cuban community in Miami is trying to blow the cholera outbreak out of proportion,” said Leslie Balog, Cuba reality tours director for San Francisco-based Global Exchange.
“The outbreak occurred in the far eastern province of Granma, in the city of Manzanillo,” Balog told CubaNews. “According to Cuban health officials, it is under control, and we have no reason to believe otherwise. Remember that Cuban doctors have experience dealing with cholera since hundreds of them were in Haiti when it broke out there after the earthquake, and they treated many thousands of patients.”
Insight Cuba, based in New Rochelle, N.Y., shares similar sentiments.
“It’s unfortunate [for Ros-Lehtinen] to take this situation and politicize it,” said company president Tom Popper.
Despite news coverage of the cholera situation, travel providers report no steep drop in U.S. or overseas bookings to Cuba.
“We have not experienced any decrease in our sales,” said Miguel Gibson, owner of British travel agency Cuba Direct. “Why should they decrease? The cholera outbreak is very localized and it has been contained. Manzanillo is not a place which features in tours, nor is it a place of interest for independent travelers. If there were a similar situation in Havana, I would then expect a decrease in business.”
It helps that July and August are low season for Cuba travel.
“All the incoming requests now from all over the world are for the new high season beginning in November,” said Volker Liebig, Havana division manager at Swiss travel agency Cuba Real Tours Ltd. “Everyone is quite sure that in November, everything will be normal.”
Don't miss out
Become a Digital Subscriber and continue to access all the exclusive and insightful reporting you'll only find in Cuba News.Subscribe Now - Get 30 days Free