Cultural Exchanges Now Departing Florida, Destination Cuba
August 16, 2011 at 3:47 PM
We've been covering the loosening of Cuba travel restrictions for years now. There was a Congressional bill floating around in late 2009 but, as we explained at the time, it had zero chance of passing. So then President Obama tried to take things into his own hands, promising to open up travel channels. It took several more months before anything happened, but in 2011 the administration announced that "purposeful travel" would be allowed for Americans who could get visas to the island nation.
All of which brings us to this week's news, which is that People-To-People trips are again departing from Florida to Cuba. Booked through Insight Cuba, the cultural exchange program is one of several on the horizon.
There are no less than 35 organizations angling for the US Treasury Department to approve their purposeful travel trips, which have to involve "meaningful interaction between travelers and individuals." Hipster travel snobs will be especially pleased to know that Treasury distinguishes between being a Cuba "traveler," which is allowed, and being a Cuba "tourist," which is not.
There might still be political pushback to these trips. The fact that some of the supposedly apolitical tours include sitdowns with neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution isn't going to help things. But given current polling data showing waning support for the boycott, it's unlikely that travel restrictions will ever again reach what they once were. They mightLibya showed us how quickly political "engagement" can go to political "isolation" these daysbut Castro would have to do something especially stupid.
Right now Insight Cuba tours will run you about $1,600 not including the airfare. There's more information here if you want it. The price seems a bit high to us, and we expect it will drop in the coming months as other exchange programs pass the licensing requirements. Something to keep an eye out for.
[Photo: Kotoviski / Wiki Commons]