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Cuba Travel from U.S already flourishing

  • 06-Oct-09 17:55
  • Cuba
  • Holiday Industry

Unofficial tourism from the U.S. going on Cuba holidays has begun to flourish before the travel ban on U.S citizens travelling to the island has been officially lifted by the Obama administration

Cuba Travel from U.S already flourishing

Undisclosed numbers and figures are showing an increase in Cuba travel from U.S. tourists, with Cuba holidays already flourishing being officially declared legal for U.S. citizens. Even when Obama has not officially changed any rules regarding non-family trips to Cuba from U.S citizens, State Department statistics show anecdotal evidence of a flow of visits and Americans taking Cuba holidays.

A good example is joan Brown Campbell, a church lady who has been to Cuba 37 times in total, except during the last Bush administration, when she could not get the required U.S. permission to visit the island for four straight years. This year she applied once again with the Obama administration granting her license to travel straight away. The U.S. Department even opened doors for her to invite several Cuban academics to visit New York. Among those who attended a conference Brown organized last month: Ofelia Ortega, a member of the Cuban national assembly.

More Americans than ever are heading down for Cuba holidays in the ``people to people'' travel excursions. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson recently made the trip on a legal trade expedition, and actor Benicio Del Toro has gone at least twice since his movie ‘Che’ screened last year.

Cuba Education Tours offer many American professionals tips on how to qualify for a general research license. They offer trips over Thanksgiving, Christmas and a ``51st Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Tour spanning New Years.''

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a critic of Obama's currently unchanged Cuba policy said: “Even though the administration hasn't yet published changes allowing more cultural and educational exchanges to and from Cuba, anecdotal evidence suggests that such loosening has already taken place. We see ads informing college students and artistic groups of planned excursions to the island. So it looks like its back to the era of two-week college courses in Cuban culture taught on the beaches of Varadero.''

On another note, very recently Colombian rocker Juanes met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in May to promote his idea for a ``concert for peace'' in Havana Sept. 20. Because the concert was free and open to the public, the State Department allowed all American musicians to participate.

Obama also ended Bush's practice of stonewalling Cuban academics traveling to the United States to attend conferences. ``Cooperation in academia is very important, and so Cuban professors felt very limited before,'' said Cuban political scientist Rafael Hernández, who got a visa to attend Brown Campbell's conference, and will be a visiting professor this semester at the University of Texas.

``Professors resented not being able go forward with that. It's too soon to tell whether there's been a real change,'' Hernández continued.

Critics say the recent boom in Cuba travel demonstrates that Obama doesn't need an official policy change offering special licenses.

``The law permits all that without a change,'' said pro-embargo lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone. ``There is purposeful Cuba travel. The administration has been more lax in authorizing travel than the previous administration was, but that fits the pattern with Democrats.''

But still, these slight “changes” in conduct are mainly symbolic and activists keep pushing and urging Obama to do more by officially changing the rules, not just interpreting them differently. No real boom in Americans taking Cuba holidays can be seen without a more drastic change in policy.

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