Russian tourists have returned to the Dominican Republic, something that could have an impact on Cuba’s tourism figures in the coming months.
The Dominican press reported that the Russian airline Nordwind, through the tour operator Pegas Touristik, restarted its operations in the tourist province of Puerto Plata.
More than four hundred Russian tourists arrived aboard the B777-200 jet on flight NWS351 at 3:40 pm on Sunday at the Gregorio Luperón Airport, coming from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on the SVO-POP-SVO route.
To welcome them to the rhythm of merengue and folklore, numerous Dominican officials attended, among them the senator for the province Ginette Bournigal, the representative of the Dominican Ministry of Tourism for Puerto Plata, Stephanie Kfouri, and executives of Aeropuertos Dominicanos Siglo XXI (Aerodom).
The Nordwind Airlines aircraft also received the “protocol baptism” by two fire trucks prior to the celebration ceremony prepared by the authorities for the tourists and the crew.
In their welcoming speeches, Bournigal and Kfouri highlighted the enormous value of the reopening of this route from Moscow to the so-called “Bride of the Atlantic”, because of the importance of the Russian market for the impulse and recovery of tourism in the north coast and other Dominican tourist centers.
In the last four years, Russia has been the third largest market of tourists to the Caribbean country, after the United States and Canada. Up to 245,000 Russians could soon fly to the Dominican Republic as tourists, a figure similar to that of 2019, before the pandemic broke out.
In addition to Nordwind, other Russian airlines (Aeroflot, Royal Flight, Azur Air…) expect to fly this summer to three destinations in the Dominican, a decision that could seriously harm Cuba, which currently receives the highest number of tourists originating in the Eurasian country.
The routes to Puerto Plata, Samana and Punta Cana have just been activated, which has set off alarms among Cuban authorities because Russian tourists could soon end up changing Varadero and Cayo Coco for Punta Cana, as the portal Sputnik recently warned.
The Russian media also added that “Dominicans are more competitive” and that “their service surpasses the Cuban one, according to criteria of tourists who know both countries”.
Despite the visa exemption in force between Cuba and Russia, the island has faced serious problems this year with the coronavirus pandemic, including tests for travelers arriving in the country.
The issue came close to generating a diplomatic disagreement between the two nations in early July, when more than a hundred Russian tourists arriving in Varadero were isolated after what they denounced as false positive PCRs in the tests applied in Cuba.
In early 2019, long before the arrival of the coronavirus, the then Minister of Tourism and now Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, acknowledged in an interview that Cuba’s great competitor in the Caribbean to seduce Russian tourism was the neighboring Dominican Republic, something that time has only confirmed.
Now, in the face of the pandemic and the meager numbers of foreign tourists that have reduced profits to a minimum, the Cuban government announced on Monday that as from November 15 it will gradually open its borders to tourism.