Associations Clarify New Cuba Travel Rules
Organizations with a stake in travel are working to explain new rules loosening more than five decades of restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba. One group is also working to help develop long-term plans for travel between the two nations.
A month after President Obama’s December announcement that the U.S. would work to normalize relations with Cuba, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury released new rules easing decades-long travel and trade restrictions.
The recent restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba created a furor of interest among American tourists and businesses eager to travel to the Caribbean country. Not so fast, warned a number of associations that are working to explain the ins and outs of the new regulations and what they mean for travelers.
The Global Business Travel Association, for example, released a new set of resources this week to help business and leisure travelers navigate the changes resulting from the loosened restrictions.
In a blog post on the group’s website, GBTA Executive Director Mike McCormick wrote that while commercial flights between Cuba and the United States are still a ways off, several airlines have already said they are interested in flying to Cuba.
McCormick also noted that while most Americans will still need to travel to Cuba on supervised group trips, the U.S. companies running those trips aren’t subject to the same paperwork and inspections that were required before.
The United States Tour Operators Association also attempted to clarify what the new rules do and do not allow and explained that some of its members are already offering approved trips to Cuba.
“Can Americans jump on a plane today to visit Cuba? The short answer is ‘no,’ at least not for some time until commercial flights begin and the infrastructure is in place,” USTOA President and CEO Terry Dale said in a statement. “But U.S. travelers can visit Cuba today through the existing cultural programs offered by tour operators, such as the members of USTOA.”
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, meanwhile, said it is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to help plan and execute changes that would make general aviation, as opposed to charter flights, to Cuba a reality.
“AOPA has been working with the FAA and other involved agencies on a host of issues, ranging from basic flight planning to export certification and border security,” the group noted in a news article on its website.