The announcement by President Barack Obama on December 17, about the beginning of a process for the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, the entry into force last Friday of the new more flexible travel and trade regulations, and celebration this week of high-level talks between delegations from both countries have determined an increase in the interest of Americans for the people-to-people trips.
This method is applicable and without the need for special licenses from the Treasury Department, is the only one that allows US citizens to travel legally to Cuba if their trips are inserted within 12 authorized categories, such as family visits, humanitarian projects, professional research, and journalistic, educational, religious, artistic or sports.
From these possibilities, companies specializing in the management of itineraries to Cuba for people to people exchange have seen an increase in demand. To cope it, InsightCuba, the leading institution, launched 70 additional starting dates for this year and next.
Tom Popper, its president, told AFP that “the overwhelming majority of Americans had no idea that travel to Cuba was a possibility.” But because of the historical approach the situation has changed and now besides knowing that they can, they take an interest in visiting the island.
In fact, he explained to OnCuba, three groups were lucky enough to travel with the company shortly after the presidential announcement and the experience was very positive. “People love feel being part of history and has never been a better time to travel to Cuba,” he said.
As in past years, the company has six special tours covering several edges of life in the Greater Antilles, from its performing arts to the best landscapes. Now you can do it more often and please a wider range of people, thanks to the decision of the White House to potentiate the increase in exchange between the two peoples.
For this year it promotes as special options, a trip to attend the Art Biennale and Marabana, to be held in Havana in May and November respectively. On this last option InsightCuba keeps a special bonus for last November 156 US marathoners could compete, after many years of prohibitions, in one of the most popular sporting events on the island.
Besides InsightCuba other organizing companies have reported increased interest to visit the Greater Antilles.
Also in statements to AFP Collin Alberti, who heads Cuba Educational Travel, said that in the last days “the phones have not stopped ringing.” His organization has been able to bring 5000 visitors and they foresee they will be able to match that figure this year, thanks to new regulations.
For the above companies, a potential obstacle to the growth of travel town to town could be the tourist infrastructure of the island, which it says already works almost at full capacity.
However, all agree that these exchanges have a high value to encourage encounters between citizens of two countries that “lived for half a century away,” and contribute to discard “stereotypes that both peoples have been hearing for over 50 years”.