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Cuba Update: Will the recent change in travel advisory help Cuba bookings?

Sep 19, 2018 |

Insider

| by Christopher Bensley

In case you missed it, on August 23rd the U.S. State Department softened its stance on travel to Cuba, lowering it to a Level 2 from a level 3. With this change, will Cuba become popular for groups again?

 Holbrook travel and other U.S. tour operators have been working with the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) to lobby the U.S. State Department to lower the rating. “We are pleased that the State Department has made this common-sense decision,” said Martha Honey, executive director of CREST. “Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world, and people-to-people exchanges ground almost to a halt when the travel restrictions were imposed last year.”

 A level 2 rating advises travelers to “Exercise Increased Caution,” but is far less threatening that a Level 3, which recommends “Reconsider Travel.” If you’d like a refresher on the new State Department system see our previous post.

 “Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world, and people-to-people exchanges ground almost to a halt when the travel restrictions were imposed last year.”

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 "The Department conducted a comprehensive risk assessment for U.S. private citizen travelers in Cuba and decided that a Level 2 travel alert was appropriate,” said Orna Blum, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. “The health attacks appear to be directed at U.S. government personnel and occur mainly in the residences of embassy staff.”

 Since the new ratings and restrictions were placed on Cuba a year ago, plus the hurricane last September, it has been a tough year for tourism. In particular, U.S. visitors dropped by 24%, down to 266,455 travelers. A CREST survey that came out early this year showed that 84% of U.S. tour operators who were contacted said the 2017 travel advisory was the primary reason that U.S. travel to Cuba had dropped.

"Americans should feel reassured that it is safe and legal to travel to this special and engaging destination. It is now in the same category as most of Europe.”

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 “As travel professionals, we have seen firsthand the benefits of people-to-people travel to Cuba, which puts revenue directly into the hands of Cuban households while providing U.S. travelers with outstanding cultural and educational experiences…We are concerned about how the decline in U.S. travel to Cuba is hurting Cuban entrepreneurs and curtailing invaluable exchanges between American travelers and the Cuban people,” the coalition said in their letter to the State Department.

 The revised Cuba travel advisory level should regenerate interest from U.S. citizens. Andrea Holbrook, Holbrook president and a member of the CREST board stated, “We are encouraged that the State Department has made this change back. Americans should feel reassured that it is safe and legal to travel to this special and engaging destination. It is now in the same category as most of Europe.”

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