A Tense Past and Changing Diplomacy
You may have read in the news that President Trump recently announced he will be reversing some Obama-era policies on Cuba. Starting in 2009, Obama began easing restrictions on American travel and remittances by Cuban Americans, and in 2014 he announced that he and Raul Castro were working together to normalize relations between the two countries. Before that, the US and Cuba had no diplomatic relations for over 50 years, communicating through Switzerland as a mediator since 1961. The trade embargo has been in place since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, making life more challenging for the over 11 million people who live there. Tools and supplies can be hard to come by, making it a struggle for many working class families and contributing to eroding infrastructure.
Trump’s new goal is to limit American business with the Cuban military or any agency of Raul Castro’s regime, which runs much of the tourism and hospitality industry. Under his directive, the Commerce and Treasury Departments have 30 days to begin writing new policies. This has made some Cuban Americans and Republicans very happy, while upsetting many business leaders and human rights groups. While the Castro government has many flaws, a lot of people believe that limiting business with Cuba will only serve to make life harder for Cuban civilians.
Read more about the politicians involved and their goals for these policies in this CNN article.
What Does this Mean for Our Tours?
Most importantly, these policies have not yet been written so it is all hear-say for now. Once they go into effect we will make any changes necessary, but at the moment everything continues to run as normal. Trump’s new policies will likely make it more difficult for individuals to plan trips to Cuba, but fortunately it will not affect our ability to travel as a group. Flights to Cuba will still be allowed to operate and you will still be able to get your tourist card (visa) from your airline at the gate.
Travel to Cuba is currently allowed under 12 different categories, one of which is people-to-people tours. These types of educational tours set up direct cultural exchange between Cubans and Americans, and US tour companies will still be able to offer these under Trump’s new policies. There will, however, be a crackdown on solo travelers using this category as a loophole to plan their individual vacations.
With these new policies, the most important thing for visitors will be to stick to an itinerary that has cultural exchange activities involved every day, and to keep records of that. This is something we already do, and our guide will keep an account of our activities so that everyone has something to show officials if they face any questions upon their return home.
Even once these policies go into effect, you will still be able to do all of our unique activities, stay in the same accommodations, and bring home the same souvenirs (including rum and cigars). Our tours will all go on as originally planned.
Learn more about what these developments mean for travelers from this article in the Tampa Bay Times.
Why Should You Visit Cuba with Gondwana?
Apart from making it a less stressful planning experience and giving you legal access to Cuba, we also take care when planning our tours so that our itineraries truly benefit the locals. We dine in family-run “paladares” and stay in locally owned “casas particulares” so that they money we spend ends up in the hands of the people, not the politicians. We always work with independent guides and operators, because we believe it helps small businesses grow and provides guests with the most authentic experience.
We have planned a variety of in-depth cultural experiences, everything from home cooked meals with our host families to Cuban music and history sessions with local musicians. We ride on horseback through a valley of tobacco and coffee plantations and visit a fourth generation farmer to learn about how he harvests and hand rolls the cigars Cuba is famous for. Learn how process sugar cane to make rum and how to dance to Salsa. These sorts of experiences are what People-to-People Tourism was made for, and they provides you with a unique opportunity to connect with Cuban civilians and learn about the local lifestyle firsthand.
Exciting Press for Our Cuban Ecotour
A number of high profile publications have been noticing our tours and the style of travel that sets them apart. We were very excited to see our Cuban Ecotour featured in Modern Traveler, Travel Weekly and Travel Agent Central. These leading voices in the industry identified us as a top choice when planning your trip to Cuba, and we take that as a huge compliment! Our friendly Cuban guides, commitment to sustainable practices, support of the local economy and authentic cultural activities make us ideal for those who want to see the real Cuba. Skip the cruise and come with us, get off the beaten path, and learn what makes Gondwana’s Cuban Ecotour such an unforgettable experience!