Cubans who rely heavily on the vital tourism trade are resorting to other skills to find income because of the downturn in the industry due to the corona virus pandemic. Some have turned to agriculture or service industries.
Esleidy Tamary, a 42-year-old mother, has worked as a local tour guide for more than a decade in Las Terrazas, an eco-village located an-hour drive south of the capital Havana, but the coronavirus pandemic suddenly changed her life.
In Cuba, which has reported 3,617 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 89 deaths so far, many tour guides have been affected by the health crisis, since the government has adopted measures to slow the spread of the disease nationwide.
For Tamary, it was supposed to be a good season to guide groups of tourists visiting the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) biosphere reservation, plan travel itineraries and introduce the customs and traditions of Cuban farmers.
However, she now harvests crops at a nearby state-operated farm to support national food production, a paramount priority during the pandemic on the island.
"I miss close contact with tourists. We are sort of our country's ambassadors," said Tamary. "COVID-19 pandemic has put our work at risk but this is not going to last forever. Now it is time to work on the land, but sooner or later I will welcome tourists again with a big smile on my face.”
Since Cuba reported its first cases on March 11, the government has suspended international flights, requested vessels in Cuban territorial waters to withdraw, and extended the ban to all foreign tourists.
The acute decline in international tourists has hammered tourism in small communities and towns, as well as the country's largest metropolitan areas.
During the pandemic, over 111,000 employees of the country's tourism industry have worked to improve hotel facilities, or been relocated to essential economic activities, or put under paid leave.