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More Airports to Get Havana Flights as Obama Lessens Cuba Travel Restrictions

Where: Cuba
January 17, 2011 at 8:40 AM | by | Comment (1)

You know, ever since President Barack Obama entered office, we've been doing stories on the ever-so-gradual opening of Cuba, including everything from Orbitz's "Open Cuba" campaign to WestJet's direct flights from Canada. And now we are yet another step closer to drinking many a Cuba Libre as Obama has made several changes, all which go into effect in about two weeks and do not require congressional approval.

Here's what's going down:


· Church groups traveling to Cuba for religious reasons are allowed in
· School groups traveling to Cuba for "educational" reasons are allowed in
· American may send no more than $500 to Cuban citizens every 3 months, so long as they are not in the Castro administration or card-carrying members of the Communist party.
· US airports with proper customs and immigration facilities will be able to begin flying Cuba charter flights run by travel agencies. Previously, these charter flights were limited only to NYC, LA and Miami.

Obviously the changes above that will most effect tourism to the island are the ones allowing church groups and school groups back in, plus all the flights that could start up from other airports around the US. Although there are arguments on both sides as to whether or not all this will positively effect Cuba, those who have been in the past, when similar trips were once allowed, will likely see this is a big step forward.

For one, we know of school groups—high school bands or college art clubs—that would travel south not just to buy some cheap cigars and take photos of old cars, but to learn Cuban culture through the local music and art traditions. And that's just a small example with which we've had personal experience. Students carry that knowledge—those experiences—which them the rest of their lives, and who knows? One day it could be one of the kids who went down to learn the Habanera that returns to invest in dance schools or other creative infrastructure. And then of course...a departure board that says "HAVANA" on it won't be as shocking as it is now.

[Photo: DBarefoot]

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Why Visit Cuba

My wife and I bicycled joined Wow Cuba<http://www.wowcuba.com/wowcuba2/index.php?id_idioma=2> bike trips across Cuba in the winters of 2008 and 2009. What we found most fascinating is how ordinary Cubans cope with a country in which even items like toothpaste and shampoo are scarce, you need to get government permission to build an addition to your house and you are not free to leave. Cuba is extraordinarily beautiful and the Cubans are generous and hospitable. The country is well worth visiting under any circumstances, but, having read this post, I think we'll try get back their this winter before it changes too much.

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