10 million Americans expected to travel to Cuba per year if restrictions are lifted

Posted: 17-Aug-15 16:21

As the US and Cuba work towards lifting travel bans, more American citizens become interested in visiting the long-forbidden island. However, direct and easy travel still faces obstacles as several issues remain unsolved on both sides.

10 million Americans expected to travel to Cuba per year if restrictions are lifted

Cuba has been catching the eye of tourists and travel companies everywhere since its government, in 2013, began several economic reforms that looked to open up to the world.

In December 2014, this fascination only grew more after President Obama expressed his desire to re-establish diplomatic ties with the island. Now that the US embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington have officially re-opened, American citizens and companies are looking forward to engaging with Cuba after long years of hostility.

This transformation, however, may take longer than expected as there are still many political and economic obstacles to be overcome.

Can Americans freely travel to Cuba?

Although some travel restrictions have been lifted by Obama's administration, tourism to the Caribbean nation is still prohibited by law due to the long-standing embargo.

Citizens wishing to visit Cuba must qualify under one of the 12 legal categories which include family visits, sporting events, humanitarian projects and educational and cultural exchanges, among others.

Director of Marketing at StudentUniverse, Rebecca Heidgerd stated:

"There's a lot more interest circulating for tours to Cuba, but it may take some time for individual travel to pick up because you still have to go for educational purposes or to help the Cuban people."

As a planned itinerary is usually required to prove the purpose of your visit is legal, many cruise lines are preparing culturally-themed excursions to the island, including the sea giant Carnival which will launch trips to Havana next May.

In order to clarify the doubts and concerns of US travellers interested in visiting Cuba, CNN, the NY Times and Conde Nast recently published elaborate guidelines for Americans, who must still follow specific steps before being able to set foot on the island.

Is Cuba ready to welcome 10 million visitors?

The matter of whether this small Caribbean nation is prepared to receive an avalanche of visitors is another tricky issue. Though most Cubans embrace the re-establishment of bonds with the US and are eager to exchange with its people, this small country has not yet created the conditions needed for such a large number of visitors with high expectations.

"The challenges on the ground are many, but it all boils down to one simple word: infrastructure," declared Arthur Berman, vice president of the Latin America and Cuba division for Central Holidays. "But that one word will unfortunately take quite a long while to implement."

The needed upgrade of various hotels, the difficulties in transport and the less-than-satisfactory telecommunications are all areas that demand a large amount of work and dedication. Nonetheless, Cuban officials and American travellers and businessmen remain optimistic that if efforts are made on behalf of both nations, regular and easy American travel can be achieved in the near future.


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