Sunwing Loves Cuba

Sunwing held a Toronto tribute to Cuba Wednesday, an event that coincided with what Sunwing says is an unprecedented development in the Caribbean country’s tourist trade that the travel company is playing a key role in.

The event — labelled Sunwing Loves Cuba and which drew a large number of travel agents, hoteliers and others with a stake in Cuban tourism — came as Sunwing details the agreement it has with Cuban authorities that will see Sunwing Travel Group division Blue Diamond Resorts managing all 11 hotels on Cayo Largo, found off Cuba’s southern coast.

The hotels collectively have 1,348 rooms on an island that Sunwing executive vice president of strategic partnerships Eric Rodriguez labelled a “boutique destination” on which “you won’t have 3 flights arriving at once.”

Three of the hotels — a Memories, Grand Memories and Starfish — will collectively have some 954 rooms.

Plans also call for a 250-room Royalton resort to open in 2025 or 2026

The agreement between Sunwing and the Cuban government will run for 10 years and Sunwing will begin sending clients to Cayo Largo this fall.

Rodriguez said yesterday that Cayo Largo has a following in Quebec and Italy but isn’t as well known in Ontario.

Sunwing will have year-round air service to the island — home to 25 km of beaches — from both Montreal and Toronto and seasonal service from the likes of Quebec City.

Rodriguez praised Cayo Largo’s “fantastic” beaches, labelled it an eco-friendly destination that has electric cars and a turtle rescue center and reported that all its hotels are no more than a short jaunt from the airport.

Rodriguez told the audience that Cuba is “very ingrained” in Sunwing, which in turn is “the largest provider of tourists as a single company” to the country.

The company now offers 9,000 Cuban hotel rooms.

Beaches have been the mainstay of Cuban tourism but Rodriguez used the gathering to praise the value for money a Cuban vacation offers, the personal safety that awaits Cuba visitors and the island’s “huge” history while suggesting that those able to visit Havana on a Cuba vacation do so.

Sunwing vice president of  retail sales Deana Murphy used Sunwing Loves Cuba to note the event drew many in the travel industry together after Covid resulted in many having had limited contacted with industry colleagues over the past two years.

“We’re here to reignite your love and excitement for Cuba,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez welcomed improving WiFi in Cuba and praised the Cuban government for anti-Covid vaccination program.