A recent survey from Allianz Global Assistance found that Americans’ interest in visiting Cuba is waning, with the majority of respondents stating they don’t understand current travel restrictions to the country.
In total, 56.5% of survey respondents said they didn’t understand the regulations, 22.3% said they did understand them and the remaining 21.2% said they were “somewhat familiar” with the restrictions.
It’s a sentiment that David Lee, owner and founder of Cultural Cuba, is familiar with.
“That is definitely accurate,” he said, of consumer confusion on regulations on Cuba travel.
At the moment, Lee said he hasn’t experienced a drop in business. It’s about on par with what it was last year, but he said travelers — and in some cases, travel agents — have questions about the current regulations.
Cuba travel is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Travel must fall under one of 12 categories of authorized travel: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation or transmission of information or information materials; and certain export transactions.
Essentially, Lee said, the rules today remain unchanged from before rhetoric from the Trump administration confused many, resulting in a downturn in the number of Americans visiting the island earlier this year.
At that time, confusion was compounded by perceptions that Hurricane Irma had affected Havana (its effects were minimal) and reports of so-called “sonic attacks” on U.S. diplomats, resulting in a U.S. State Department Travel Advisory on travel to Cuba.
Today, Lee said, the hurricane and diplomat attacks seem to have faded from Americans’ minds, but confusion over regulations remains, something he addresses with travel agents frequently.
“Especially when it comes to travel agents, we’re having these conversations with them because the reality of the situation is, there is no real change in what was going on in 2016 to 2017 from the perspective of legal travel to Cuba,” Lee said. “We’re not doing anything different today than we did then.”
Lee said Cultural Cuba’s itineraries remain unchanged and still qualify as legitimate travel to Cuba: They focus on cultural aspects like music, art, architecture and food.
“The point, from the travel agent perspective, is just like before, all they need to do is contact a DMC like us or others — obviously we’re not the only one — and we handle all of these things,” he said.
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