American travel to Cuba has got much easier, says NY Times

Posted: 19-May-15 11:13

Travel to Cuba for American nationals has become much easier since diplomatic relations between the two countries was restored, according to the New York Times. The loosening of travel restrictions is said to be attracting large numbers of US holidaymakers, though tourism to Cuba is still banned under the US trade embargo.

American travel to Cuba has got much easier, says NY Times

Travel to Cuba for US citizens is now easier than it has ever been since the 1950s Cuban revolution, according to a report from the New York Times. Following the recent softening of relations between the two countries, travel restrictions have been relaxed and general permits are being issued for Americans who want to take educational or cultural tours of Cuba.

The US travel market has been quick to seize the chance to offer accommodation, tours and transport to Cuba. Americans can now book "casas particulares" (Cuban homestays) and search for flights online, while more than one company has permission to start offering ferry services between Miami and Havana in the autumn. Tour operators have added more Cuban cultural and educational trips to their portfolios, some online travel agents have started taking Cuba-related bookings and Cuban people have even began hanging out signs advertising private accommodation.

US citizens are travelling to Cuba in ever-increasing numbers. American-based Cuba specialist Airline Brokers Company told the New York Times that the travel agent's business had increased by about a third since December when Barack Obama announced that diplomatic relations would be restored.

"People see that this is all going to open up and they want to see Cuba before it becomes Cancun…"

Said Airline Brokers Company chief executive, Vivian Mannerud.

The loosening of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) rules for travel to Cuba means American travellers no longer need to apply for a specific license, but can instead get a general permit as long as their reason for going to the country falls into one of twelve categories. Americans travelling with the aim of cultural exchange and education, deemed ‘people-to-people' travel, will be issued with general permits, but it must be part of an escorted guided tour.

Travel for public performances, sports competitions and exhibitions is also allowed if it is part of a organised tour. For this reason, this month's Havana Art Biennial will see record numbers of US visitors. OFAC expects tours of the country to include a packed programme of cultural events and experiences with very little downtime. Other types of permitted travel include for family visits, journalism and charity work.

But travelling to Cuba specifically for tourism – a beach holiday in Varadero for example – is still prohibited under the US embargo. Financial restrictions on Cuba have yet to be lifted and at the moment US travellers usually cannot make payments for holiday services online or with an American credit card.


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