Those hoping to visit Cuba in the wake of thawing relations between the U.S. and the island nation – as evidenced by the administration’s much talked-up “people-to-people” program – may have to put their packing on hold.
Some Tourism Licenses on Hold
That’s according to a new report from Reuters which cites U.S. tour operators who say they’re having great difficulty getting travel licenses renewed.
The problems are linked to opposition from Cuban-American lawmakers who reportedly “oppose all contact with the Communist-run country and have lined up to denounce it.” Apparently there is concern that organized tour groups and/or their customers may be promoting more of an atmosphere of traditional tourism instead of the cultural exchanges that are supposed to be provided.
Cuba Travel Ban began in 1959
The U.S. government banned travel to Cuba – which is just 90 miles away from Florida – shortly after the 1959 revolution there. In March of 2009, air travel analyst Rick Seaney wrote about Congressional attempts at easing travel strictures in his weekly ABC column and by the following year, the ban on “professional research, religious and people-to-people travel” was lifted. In 2011 alone, close to half a million people made the journey to Cuba, typically on chartered flights via tour groups. As Seaney noted in his blog, “One of the last remaining icebergs from the Cold War – the ban on travel to Cuba – [is] slowly but surely thawing.” Then, snags.
Red Tape but Tours Still Offered
Tourism operators say red tape has increased; travel applications that used to run a mere ten pages are now more than 100 pages long. Plus new regulations require groups traveling to Cuba to provide extensive post-trip reports that must include details of visitors’ “meaningful exchanges” with the Cuban population.
There are still tour operators offering legally sanctioned charter packages to get you to Cuba if you qualify for travel; however, it seems they are becoming a bit harder to find.