Local Cuba travel agents expect a boost in business
Leslie Berestein Rojas January 19, 02:00 PM
Within a day of President Barack Obama’s announcement that he’d loosened
travel to Cuba, local travel agents who book trips to the island were
planning to expand their business.
The biggest changes won’t affect Cuban Americans as much as other U.S.
citizens, who until now have had to obtain special permission from the
U.S. Department of the Treasury to visit legally. They’re still limited
on reasons to go – but now they can get a visa through a travel agent.
Agents warn that it’s still not like, say, booking a vacation to Cancun.
“One thing that has not changed is that tourism is absolutely
forbidden,” said Patrick Ela of Crown International Travel, a longtime
Cuba travel agency in West Los Angeles. “You cannot go as a tourist –
you have to go with a purpose.”
A newly expanded list of purposes is outlined on the Treasury Department
– Family visits
– Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and
certain intergovernmental organizations
– Journalistic activity
– Professional research and professional meetings
– Educational activities
– Religious activities
– Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other
competitions, and exhibitions
– Support for the Cuban people
– Humanitarian projects
– Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
– Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or
– Certain authorized export transactions
Cuban Americans with close relatives in Cuba have enjoyed looser
restrictions since 2011; during much of the previous decade, they were
limited to visiting once every three years. But the new rules put into
place last week do allow them to spend more – and to bring more money to
Cuba Travel Services in Cypress, formerly in Long Beach, chartered its
first flight from LAX to Havana in 2000. Back then, the majority of the
travelers were Cuban Americans visiting relatives, said general manager
His charter flights stopped in 2004 after tight President George W. Bush
increased restrictions a few years later. He offered sporadic flights
after that, but he said there was too much red tape. He hasn’t chartered
a flight to Cuba from LAX in about four years.
“We will start that flight again, probably sometime in mid-June,”
He expects about half of the business to come from curious travelers.
Source: Local Cuba travel agents expect a boost in business | 89.3 KPCC