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Cuba looks set to welcome more visitors as travel restrictions are eased

  • 18-Jan-11 10:38
  • Cuba
  • USA Today Travel

The number of travellers from the United States taking Cuba holidays could soon be on the increase as President Obama recently announced plans to allow students, religious and cultural groups to legally visit the Caribbean country.

Cuba looks set to welcome more visitors as travel restrictions are eased

Travellers from the United States could soon be able to enjoy Cuba holidays if they are part of student, cultural and church groups. President Barrack Obama recently announced plans to lift travel restrictions for visitors who fall in to these categories, allowing them to legally travel to Cuba, despite the decades-long ongoing U.S-Cuba embargo.

Last Friday, President Obama eased restrictions on U.S travel, visas and the transfer of funds from Americans to Cubans which will take effect within two weeks. Though some of the restrictions have been eased, many tourists from the U.S will be unable to freely take Cuba holidays.

Many of these travellers resort to visiting the island illegally via Mexico, Canada and surrounding Caribbean countries. Last year, approximately 400,000 U.S citizens, including legal Cuban-Americans, took holidays in Cuba, which is five times the number from 2008.

Cuba Travel Expert and author, Christopher P. Baker says that things are "more or less return things to where they were under the Clinton administration, with the addition of exciting new openings."

The author of Moon Cuba explained: "Academics and students have been unshackled to travel to Cuba more freely. But the changes also potentially open the door for every U.S. citizen to legally travel to Cuba as a participant in cultural programs, (and) the licensing process should be much more friendly," adds Baker.

"I anticipate a surge in applications by a broad range of travel companies and cultural organizations for licenses to operate cultural tours that involve interactions with Cubans.

"In the Clinton era, this included everything from bicycling to ornithology groups and... well, you name it. In fact, my first visit to Havana, in 1993, was as a participant in a tour to the Havana International Jazz Festival licensed under the 'people-to-people provision.'"

A recent statement from the White House said that even though the economic embargo against Cuba would remain in place, the new measures "will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities."

These measures include an increase in flights to Cuba via U.S charter companies and Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy in the Americas, Sarah Stephens says: "For the U.S. travel sector, this will undoubtedly open new routes and new revenues for charters and other businesses that provide services for Americans visiting the Cuban market.

"At a time when Cubans are changing their system in fundamental ways, it is a good idea to have greater engagement, more Americans travelling to Cuba, and more opportunities to learn from each other as everyday Cubans reshape their lives and their country."

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