Why Cuba Isn’t Ready For American Tourists Just Yet
Feb 3, 2015, 10:18 AM ET
By SERENA MARSHALL
SERENA MARSHALL More From Serena »
For the first time in more than 50 years, America’s neighbor only 90
miles away could finally be open for American tourists.
A group of bipartisan senators proposed legislation last week that would
end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba, and today a subcommittee
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by senator and son of
Cuban immigrants, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will hold a hearing on how the
new policy changes might impact human rights and democracy on the island.
But is Cuba ready?
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“There’s obviously a desire by the big airlines, Kayak, Orbitz the
others—travel institutions to get more involved, but still a lot of red
tape,” Collin Laverty, President and Owner of Cuba Educational Travel
told ABC News. “There is still some reporting and some oversight which
stifles what could actually happen.”
President Obama’s December announcement of easing restrictions meant if
you fell into one of the previously approved groups traveling to
Cuba—business, journalism, or cultural exchange, for example, you could
now go much easier.
But with that executive order visitors still have to qualify for one of
the twelve groups, and travel is restricted from “tourism” meaning no
sun and sand vacations.
“One significant change would be under the current regulation you can’t
really do—sun and sand tourism. You can’t just go to the beach,” Laverty
said. “Cuba does have a lot of hotels in Varadero, Santa Maria Key, Cayo
Coco, beach locations.”
“If the travel ban were lifted altogether that’d make it really, really
clear there are no restrictions—all the big players would move really
quickly to start offering Cuba travel,” Laverty said. “That would be
Major players like MasterCard and American Express have already
announced they would begin allowing their cards to be used in Cuba, and
Kayak said travelers can now search hotel and flight information.
“We have seen significant interest in travel to Cuba,” said Steve
Hafner, chief executive officer and co-founder, KAYAK said in a press
release. “Our goal is to provide comprehensive information for travelers
– whether they are planning a trip to Cuba or anywhere else in the world.”
While travelers can now search for Cuba there are still no booking links
available showing the red tape still blocking way to free travel.
With the legislation introduced to Congress—if passed, would mean
anyone, at any time, and for any reason could visit Cuba just like any
other destination in the world.
“You’d still have to get a Visa from Cuba, so I think they would
analyze..what’s our infrastructure and how many people can we handle…
they would do an assessment in terms of capacity,” Laverty said, adding
visa travel limits are normal for many countries, including Costa Rica,
which limits the amount of landing permits issued to airlines.
Tom Popper, President of InsightCuba and one of the first to send
America groups to Cuba under the people-to-people tours tells ABC News
tourism has been developing around the peninsula part of the island for
“If you keep going east along the northern coast, Varadero, there is
space there,” Popper told ABC News, explaining that while it is
currently not the destination for Americans due to restriction, once
opened people would head to the beaches and “those destinations would be
open and ready to receive American tourists.”
“Certainly paying hotel rooms and taxes and landing fees, and certainly
revenue from that goes to government, but when you have Americans go
into a city, go to bar, go to restaurant, somebody selling a craft on
street, there’s an opportunity for people to improve their economic
situation,” Popper said.
Source: Why Cuba Isn’t Ready For American Tourists Just Yet – ABC News –