Sunday, November 06, 2011

Relaxing American Travel Restrictions to Cuba

Miami Herald: The Door Opens for People-to-People Exchanges with Cuba Florida’s Key West to Offer Cuba Flights
New American: Obama Opens Trade and Travel Relations with Communist Cuba Obama’s New Policy Opens Way for Flights to Cuba Out of Tampa
USA Today: Obama Shows Courage by Easing Cuba Travel Ban
Voice of America: Cuban-Americans Divided Over Expanded US-Cuba Flights
WSJ: Airlines Rev Up for Flights to Cuba

On January 14, 2011, President Obama called for the relaxation of travel restrictions to Cuba. This new policy makes it easier for students, religious groups, and journalists from the United States to travel to Cuba. The ability of Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba to visit family remains unchanged under the new policy, although the effect of the policy has made travel to Cuba more convenient for them. The President hoped to increase the flow of information between Cubans and the outside world, improve human rights in Cuba, increase humanitarian aid to Cuba, and help reunite Cuban families living in the United States and Cuba. Nearly one year later, the impact of this policy for Cubans remains unclear.

Since the president’s announcement, a number of organizations interested in running person-to-person exchanges in Cuba have applied for licenses with the U.S. Treasury department. The first of these trips began in August. The organizations plan to conduct cultural tours and activities in Cuba for Americans that qualify to travel there under the new policy, promising to provide a “purposeful travel” experience for tourists through which they can interact with Cubans and “support . . . their desire to freely determine their country’s future.” Although it is not uncommon for these organizations to charge several thousand dollars, tourists are limited in their ability to contribute to the local economy through limits on spending and buying souvenirs that are not “informational” in nature. Furthermore, although organizers claim that Americans will have “plenty of opportunities to interact with Cubans,” it is unclear how many due to the tours’ highly structured itineraries that include sharing hotel and dining accommodations with other group members. Nevertheless, American demand for the few slots available on these trips has proven high.

To accommodate the growing number of people travelling to Cuba, fifteen U.S. airports are now offering flights to Cuba. Previously, flights were only available out of Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. Airport industry officials say that the international airline industry stands to gain from the new policy. By the end of the year, American Airlines, Jet Blue, United Continental, and Delta will operate roughly twenty-five weekly flights to Cuba on behalf of charter companies. Although the charter companies that currently run the trips to Cuba are not profiting from these ventures, they and the airlines view their participation in air travel to Cuba as an “investment” in a future they hope will include unrestricted travel to Cuba.

Supporters of the new travel policy cite the possible benefits of increased interaction with Cuba, such as helping the local Cuban economy, educational exchange, and fewer obstacles for religious institutions travelling to Cuba to provide religious instruction and humanitarian aid. But some Cuban-Americans worry that the tourists’ money will only strengthen the Cuban regime. These critics also note that some Cuban academic and religious groups with which American tourists will interact support the communist regime. Critics, therefore, contend that instead of supporting the people of Cuba, American tourists will financially enrich and intellectually support the repressive regime. For these reasons, critics argue that the human rights abuses on the island will not end as a result of increased tourism.

1 comment:

Dawn Wells said...

This is really a informative blog for everyone who wants to go on trips to cuba. My cousin visited cuba last year and she told me that cuba is really very beautiful and great place to visit with family.
flights to cuba