By: Joe Pike
With three tour operators making announcements to start sending U.S. clients to the once-forbidden destination of Cuba, it’s safe to say the news agents have been waiting to hear for decades has finally arrived. You can send your clients to Cuba. Your clients do not have to be a certain age, do not have to have family in Cuba and do not have to be students.
And the catch isn’t really a catch at all.
A trip there needs to be set up through an operator who’s been approved through either the People to People education program or an operator who’s been approve to conduct religious education tours. The People to People initiative requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country.
But one can argue that these are usually activities a client visiting a country for the first time wants to do anyway. Now, you won’t be allowed to just sit on a beach sipping Mojitos for the entire trip, but how many of your clients do you think are going to want to do this anyway? Will they use their opportunity to visit a country they were never able to visit before just to do the same daily activities they could have done in other Caribbean islands for years?
And from reading most of the itineraries from the three operators who have already announced tours to Cuba, the cultural mandates seem to be very loosely interpreted. You won’t have to take classes there or dig ditches for a day. Instead a cultural experience can mean anything from meeting farmers who grow tobacco to driving to dinner in a 1950s classic American car.
With help from the Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture, for the first time, Globus will present travelers a rare opportunity to experience the enduring faith, colorful history and lively culture of this captivating nation with its new itinerary for 2012: Cuba: A Spiritual, Historical and Cultural Journey.
Insight Cuba got the tour operator ball rolling when it announced in late June that it was reauthorized by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to send Americans to Cuba.
Abercrombie & Kent will be offering trips through the People to People program, which was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before President Obama resurrected the program this January.