Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Peggy Goldman – Travel expert

Dispelling Four Misconceptions About Travel to Cuba

Posted: 04/13/2013 2:09 pm

You've probably heard the chatter that music superstars Beyoncé and

Jay-Z recently celebrated their five-year wedding anniversary in Cuba.

Their trip reignited questions about whether Americans can travel to

Cuba legally. From what I've seen in the media, there are still many

misconceptions about Americans traveling to Cuba. So, here are the facts.

It's only legal for Americans to travel to Cuba on licensed trips that

involve cultural or educational exchanges with Cubans. These trips are

made possible through People-to-People licenses, granted by The U.S.

Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Only a handful of tour

operators (including my company, Friendly Planet Travel), have been

granted a coveted People-to-People license.

After some initial false reports, we found out this week that Jay-Z and

Beyoncé traveled with a licensed People-to-People tour operator (not my

company) and participated in various activities required by the license.

For example, the New York Times reported that Beyoncé watched an

informal performance by a local dance company, and both stars visited

the children's theater group La Colmenita.

The misconceptions I read about Beyoncé and Jay-Z's trip got me thinking

about some of the other fallacies I've heard about Cuba since we began

offering tours to the country back in 2011. I wanted to clear up a few

of them here:

Misconception #1: It's illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba.

The Truth: Americans can legally visit Cuba by traveling with tour

providers who have People-to-People licenses, which allow them to

interact and exchange ideas with the Cuban people. A typical itinerary

is filled with activities that offer a wide range of interactions

between Cubans and American tourists. From something as simple as

sharing dinner with a Cuban family to attending cultural events,

visiting schools, meeting with local artists and sharing an organic

lunch at a local community farm, the day is spent meeting, talking and

exchanging views. For people who love learning about other cultures,

meeting new people and learning how others live, it's a trip made in heaven.

Misconception #2: It's expensive to visit Cuba.

Fact: Travel is always expensive, and Cuba is more expensive than other

frequently visited destinations in the Caribbean because of geopolitical

issues and bureaucracy. On the other hand, the true value of visiting

Cuba, especially at this time, is literally priceless. The opportunity

for Americans to engage with the Cuban people hasn't been available

since 1960. Since that time, Cubans have stayed true to their heritage,

and because of the long embargo, they have had very little resources to

change much of their physical surroundings. Consequently, a trip to Cuba

will feel like going back in time, with your Father's 1955 Chevy Bel Air

plowing the streets as a taxi. More significantly, the experience of

visiting Cuba will open you up to a whole new world only 230 miles from

Miami International Airport, where people have learned to do more with

less — literally — and where they have proven that there is rich,

rewarding, enchanting life without much material wealth. A legal visit

to Cuba is an investment, but after sending over 2,000 people to Cuba on

Friendly Planet tours, not one traveler has said it wasn't worth their

time or interest. In fact, they've said it's worth every penny.

Misconception #3: Cuba has a limited, but growing tourism infrastructure.

Fact: Cuba's tourism business disappeared when American travelers were

embargoed in 1960. In fact, if it weren't for the Canadians and

Europeans, who love to holiday on Cuba's magnificent, powdery sand

beaches, the industry would be totally dead. Compared to other Caribbean

destinations, Cuba's tourism infrastructure is lacking. There aren't

enough hotels; sometimes the hot water doesn't get hot; sometimes the

water doesn't come out of the spigot at all; occasionally the elevator

(if there is one) breaks down, and so on. That doesn't mean there aren't

deluxe facilities on the island, but where they exist, they are

expensive, even more so for the lack of such facilities. It is important

to note though that Cuba's tourism infrastructure is growing. And while

a few gorgeous beach resorts, which can be found scattered about the

island, are generally not visited by American tourists (sun bathing

doesn't qualify as a people to people activity), there are hotels with

decent amenities to be found. Cuba's tourism infrastructure may be

limited, but it does exist, and you will hardly even have to rough it

the way you might in, say, Madagascar! In any event, travelers to Cuba

are generally more interested in immersing themselves in Cuban culture

and seeing how Cuban people live than they are surrounding themselves in

luxury. And the joy of the experience more than compensates for the

minor inconveniences that may occur.

Misconception #4: Cubans don't like Americans.

Fact: Cubans and Americans have always held an affinity for one another.

Cubans who live in America today have played a pivotal role in

American's perception of the island. Likewise, Cubans are students of

the American people, separated by only a small body of water. Every

Cuban child learns English, starting as early as third grade, and Cubans

on the islands are avid consumers of American culture through

television, music and even the internet, although access in Cuba is

quite a challenge. Our experiences with the people of Cuba have proved

that while governments might stand in the way, people will always find a

way to relate, communicate, and engage. As a traveler, you only need to

walk the streets, wander into a shop or participate in just one people

to people activity to discover that Cubans like Americans very much, and

Americans cannot help but liking Cubans back.

If you're considering traveling to Cuba like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, put

aside any misconceptions you may have about Cuba. I can assure you that

while it may not be the most luxurious vacation you'll ever take, it

will be one of the most meaningful experiences you can ever hope for.

Follow Peggy Goldman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@FriendlyPlanet

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peggy-goldman/traveling-to-cuba_b_3062395.html


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