by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Canadian traveler Claudia Perez, a resident of Montreal, is happy to be back in Cuba's Jardines del Rey seaside resort for holiday.
The 35-year-old told Xinhua she wanted to escape the hectic pace of city life to get some rest and relaxation in sunnier climes.
"There are many places I could have traveled to, but I decided to come to this paradise on Earth," she said. "It seems a safe destination despite concerns raised by the Omicron variant of the virus."
Perez's husband Jose Carlos Paredes, 39, said the initial reluctance they felt about traveling outside Canada due to the pandemic has completely vanished.
"We made the right decision. Many people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Cuba and daily cases of infection remain low," he said.
Connected to the mainland through a 35-km causeway, Jardines del Rey is famous for pristine beaches nestled among mangroves and ecological reserves.
With 11 of the resort's 26 hotels and lodgings already operating, Jardines del Rey has been seeing an increase in international flights since mid-November, when Cuba resumed international flights.
Yaima Perez, deputy director of Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinsky, is eagerly waiting for the hotel to reopen in early January after being closed due to the pandemic.
"We have adopted all measures to minimize the risk of contracting the virus," she said. "Our workers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19."
Meanwhile, Cuba continues to build and inaugurate new hotels amid the pandemic and stepped-up U.S. sanctions against the island.
As a result, on Dec. 22 of this year, the Caribbean nation is expected to inaugurate Coral Level Esmeralda Hotel in Cayo Cruz, a seaside resort located in the neighboring province of Camaguey.
Situated less than 50 meters from a white-sand beach with crystal-clear waters, the new facility operated by Spanish hotel chain Iberostar is part of the country's brand-new tourism destination.
Manuel Corbalan, a top executive at Iberostar, believes Cuba has the potential to attract more international tourists in the post-pandemic era.
"We will continue investing in the Cuban tourism sector," he said. "We are planning to open more hotels across the island. Tourism will help this country's economic recovery."
However, according to official data, Cuba is projected to receive less than half a million visitors in 2021, in contrast to the more than 4 million tourists who arrived at the island before the pandemic.
With more than 80 percent of its entire population vaccinated against COVID-19, the island has seen a decline in coronavirus cases for 10 consecutive weeks.
On Tuesday, Cuba registered 142 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one more related death, taking the total caseload to 962,628 and the national death toll to 8,305.