Americans Appetite for Cuba Grows
Excited by the opportunity to explore a destination that’s been largely off limits for half a century, American travelers are flocking to Cuba. According to Cuban officials, the number of visitors from the United States grew to 614,000 in 2016—an increase of 34 percent over the previous year.
The results of a new survey by Travel Leaders Group indicate that interest in Cuba will continue to grow in 2017. Nearly 22 percent of 1,100 travel agents who focus on leisure trips reported that they’ve already booked Cuba travel for this year, and nearly 60 percent said that their clients have expressed an interest in traveling to the island in 2017.
Indeed, a survey of Americans by the Pew Research Center finds widespread support for ties between the two countries. Three-quarters of respondents approve of the decision to reestablish relations with the island nation that’s less than 100 miles from Key West, Florida, while nearly as many favor ending the longstanding trade embargo.
But before you start planning any journey to Cuba, it is crucial to note that U.S. law still restricts travel to Cuba to 12 authorized categories. Among those categories is “people-to-people” trips that are designed to include a variety of educational and cultural activities, from walking tours of Havana neighborhoods to visiting museums and historic sites to sampling Cuba’s art, music, and culinary scenes. There’s also a chance to meet the Cuban people on trips to schools, farms, and businesses.
While the law hasn’t changed—that would require action by Congress—the options for travel to Cuba continue to expand. Travel Leaders agents reported that their clients are interested in independent trips, in visiting before the country changes dramatically, and in visiting as part of a cruise vacation. Travel agents are aware of the rapidly-changing world of Cuban travel. They can help clients consider all the options and craft a trip that fully complies with the law while providing a culturally immersive experience that they will remember for a lifetime.
For example, Americans can take advantage of regularly scheduled air service to Cuba for the first time in 50 years. Delta Air Lines opened the first U.S. airline ticket office in Havana in November and now seven other U.S.-based carriers fly between the United States and points in Cuba through regularly scheduled flights. In addition, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have sailings to Cuba scheduled through November.
Among affluent travelers, Cuba ranks high as an international destination. Travel agents who work with luxury clients put the country 12th in overall popularity, after Spain and before European Baltic cruises. For these travelers, it’s about the exclusiveness of the experience. They’re attracted to the mystery of exploring a new destination and learning about a culture that’s largely unknown, even among Americans who have traveled widely all over the world. Additionally, several luxury properties are scheduled to open in Cuba this year, including the 5-star Gran Hotel Kempinski Manzana La Habana, making the trip even more enticing.
To explore all the options for a trip to Cuba, contact Travel Leaders COS at 800-273-0793 or info@TravelLeadersCOS.com.