Are you looking to offer Cuba as a travel options for your clients? Cuba is an amazing destination for many travelers to visit. Below is some important information that can help you effectively sell Cuba.
1. Travel to Cuba is still legal for U.S. citizens, but there is important information to take into consideration. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has recently changed the sanctions for travel to Cuba. Travelers wanting to visit Cuba independently now have further restrictions, which can be cumbersome for the average traveler. The easiest ways for your clients to visit Cuba is by cruise ships sailing on approved itineraries, and land tours that meet the “people-to-people” OFAC travel requirements. With both of these options, travelers must utilize their travel time in Cuba for educational and cultural activities. Visitors must also avoid patronizing certain businesses (i.e. hotels and restaurants) that the U.S. government has not approved for US travelers. More information on these OFAC requirements can be found here: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx.
2. Traveling to Cuba can be a very different experience for your clients who have traveled to other Caribbean destinations. Traveling to Cuba can feel like stepping back in time. The country and its history can be challenging for some folks to understand until they see if for themselves. Cuba has a vibrant culture and warm-hearted people. Many of the Cuban people have experienced hardship, yet they are welcoming to travelers who want to learn about the real Cuba. While Cuba does have some idyllic beaches that can be found on other Caribbean islands, most US travelers to Cuba are not legally allowed to lounge beachside for the duration of their travels. A visit to Cuba is about its history, people, culture and educational exchanges. When selling Cuba to your clients, it is important to ask qualifying questions as to why they want to travel to Cuba.
3. Cuba offers accommodations for different travel budgets and travel styles. Accommodations in Cuba can range from budget-friendly hostels, to some newly built luxury 5-star hotels. Many of the larger hotels are government owned and operated, and not on the approved list for US travelers. There are high-end new hotels being built by outside investors, which will offer new options for your discerning travelers. Many travelers to Cuba opt to stay in “Casa Particulares” (private houses, similar to bed and breakfasts) in which you get to stay in the home of a Cuban family. This is a great way for travelers to quickly develop genuine Cuban relationships and become deeply involved in the culture of the country.
4. Cruising to Cuba. There are several cruise lines sailing to Cuban ports of call. The Cuban ports include Havana, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Isla de la Juventud. The ships vary in size, including smaller vessels operated by Victory Cruise Lines and Lindblad-National Geographic Expeditions; to larger ships operated by Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, just to name a few. US travelers sailing to Cuba must participate in cultural and educational activities. Most of the cruise lines offer their travelers group tours that meet the required OFAC guidelines. Cruising to Cuba may be a good option for travelers that might not be keen on a multi-day immersive experience.
5. It is important to advise your clients of entry and exit requirements when traveling to Cuba. A Tourist Visa is required by the Cuban Government for travelers from nearly every country. The Visa can be purchased online from companies such as Cuba Travel Services (www.cubantravelservices.com) or can be purchased at most airports with flights serving Cuba. The visa is valid for one entry into Cuba, for a stay of up to 30 days.
The government of Cuba requires all travelers visiting from abroad to purchase travel health insurance. Some airlines include the cost of this health insurance in the price of the airline ticket. If the insurance is not included in the airline ticket, there are third-party insurance companies that sell Cuban health insurance. This health insurance is not the same as a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
For US travelers returning to the United States, you may be asked to present records of your travel to Cuba. OFAC requires that you maintain specific records of your travel to Cuba for five years in the event that OFAC requests to see them. You should hang onto any documents relating to transactions or purchases you made relating to your trip to Cuba, along with any itineraries and other support for your purpose for travel.
Don Capparella is the Chief Executive & Founder of Quality Travel Solutions, a boutique travel agency and tour operating business. Don escorts groups to Cuba. His next Cuba tours are in March and October. He offers Travel Agent FAM rates. Please email him directly for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
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