Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tour ops - GOP control of Senate won’t affect Cuba trips

Tour ops: GOP control of Senate won't affect Cuba trips
By Gay Nagle Myers

Operators of people-to-people tours to Cuba predicted that Republican
control of the U.S. Senate would have little or no impact on the
increased Cuba travel opportunities that have opened up under the Obama

On the other hand, they admitted, there is no way to predict how a more
conservative Congress will act toward the lingering vestiges of the
Castro regime.

"We do not think it will have an impact in the immediate future," said
Rob Fielding, Travcoa's director of operations, guest services and
inside sales.

"The people-to-people programs have been extremely successful for
American travelers. Our hope is that no matter the administration or who
is controlling the Senate, they will continue to see how valuable Cuba
educational programs are to their constituents."

He said legislators need only review the tour reports submitted to the
Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to assess the
value the programs represent to the American people.

What they will discover, he said, is that "people-to-people programs
have been a valuable tool for Americans to engage with the Cuban people
on a rewarding level for both cultures. These documented educational
interactions with the Cuban people will go a long way to keeping the
programs out of jeopardy."

Despite occasional signs of a thaw, U.S. relations with Cuba remain on a
precarious footing, and lingering negative sentiment exists on both sides.
Should that sentiment or missteps by the Cuban government lead to
tighter restrictions, he said, "it would impact the number of Americans
permitted to visit Cuba."

Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba, said he'd always wished he had a
Cuba crystal ball, "but personally I don't believe it will have an
impact on travel to Cuba. There most likely will be some attempts to
tighten the travel restrictions, as some have shown the appetite to do,
but it's difficult to say if those attempts will gain traction."

At the moment, there's more bipartisan support in Congress for loosening
the Cuban travel restrictions than ever before, in Popper's opinion.

"But when it comes to traveling to Cuba for U.S. citizens, anything is
possible," he said. "We are receiving calls from travelers who feel that
they need to book their trip now, while they still can."

Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet, said that if the results of
the midterm elections had resulted in Democrats controlling the Senate,
"I think there would have been more movement toward lifting the
embargo," which was put in place in October 1960 by the Eisenhower
administration as Fidel Castro moved to forge a military and economic
alliance with the Soviet Union.

Still, Goldman said she feels that the status quo will prevail, and she
does not see this as an issue that will emerge.

What could result, she said, is that more people will travel to Cuba in
the next year on the people-to-people programs "because the political
outcome after that is unknown at this time."

Friendly Planet's bookings to Cuba remain strong, although "growth is
less dynamic due to the fact that there now are many more players in the
people-to-people arena," Goldman said.

Source: Tour ops: GOP control of Senate won't affect Cuba trips - Travel
Weekly -

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