U.S. Travel Association Supports Continued Cuban Travel
Holbrook Travel President Andrea Holbrook returned from Havana on October 4, after attending the RESPECT (Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel) conference. RESPECT is a U.S. professional association uniting nonprofit entities, travel agents, tour operators and other travel service providers, and the conference focused on sustainable and responsible travel to Cuba.
This event had been planned long before the U.S. State Department’s warning in regards to Cuban travel.
The new travel statement was announced as the RESPECT conference was taking place. In response, participants at the conference crafted a detailed statement that indicates RESPECT’s position in response to the warning—to unequivocally continue to promote and offer travel to Cuba. Many travel providers, including Holbrook, have been working in Cuba long enough to understand that Cuban travel policy remains in a time of great transition and is subject to the shifting political climate between the United States and Cuba.
“Holbrook’s policy is always to put the safety and well-being of travelers above every other concern,” says Andrea Holbrook. “We understand that this must be the premise upon which any educational travel experience is founded. We also understand that every organization, family, and individual must feel confident in their own safety and security to be able to enjoy and benefit from the experiences of their program.”
So far in 2017, Cuba has received nearly 500,000 U.S. visitors, as well as over 3 million visitors from other countries, without any complications in relation to the sonic incidents reported by the Department of State. In fact, since Holbrook began offering programs in Cuba in the year 2000, Cuba has remained one of its safest travel destinations. After careful consideration of the State Department’s account of health issues affecting some U.S. diplomatic staff, and keeping in mind the extensive experience that Holbrook Travel has operating trips to Cuba, Holbrook’s position is it will continue to operate trips to Cuba.
The conference also wished to clarify that visas for travel to Cuba are not in jeopardy. The Department of State indicated that the U.S. will not be issuing any new visas for Cuban citizens at this time. However, this does not affect visas for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba.
During the conference in Havana, attendees heard from the Cuban Ministry of Tourism in regards to recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma, which struck the country on September 9, as well as their process for risk and crisis management. Hurricane Irma’s main impact was in the northern cayes, including Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa Maria. There was also significant storm surge in Havana, especially along the Malecón. Outside of these areas, the rest of the country was spared from any impact. Popular destinations like Viñales, Guanahacabibes, Zapata, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Santiago, Baracoa, and others are in excellent shape.
For the cayes struck by Irma, Cuban authorities have announced a timeline for recovery, which indicates that all hotels in the affected cayes will be open and fully operational by November 15. The attendees affirm Havana is back to normal in terms of the operation of hotels, restaurants, streets, and the services necessary for both tourism and the local residents. The Varadero Peninsula, less impacted than the cayes further east, currently has all hotels open and is operating routinely.
New policies like those announced by the Department of State have generated many questions and concern amongst travelers, especially those scheduled to depart in the near future.