Today the Obama administration revealed more details about the softening of regulations governing travel and tourism to Cuba that will go into effect tomorrow. While the details themselves aren’t very detailed, I am confused, but hopeful.
The consensus seems to be that, while tourism is still banned according to federal law, Americans will no longer be required to justify that their proposed travel fits one of the previously-sanctioned twelve categories under which travel to Cuba was allowed, which include family visits, journalistic, religious, educational, professional and humanitarian activities, artistic or sports performances, and “support for the Cuban people” and travel agents and airlines will be allowed to book tickets for U.S. citizens to Cuba without a special license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control known as OFAC.
This doesn’t sound like banned tourism. I don’t think the Treasury Department will be waiting in Havana to see whether my abuela, my priest or my professor are there to pick me up at the airport, and even if they were, I won’t need them anyway because now you can use your credit cards when you get to Cuba.
But don’t pack your bags just yet. There are currently no commercial flights to Cuba from the United States, no way to book your travel directly (other than through the currently still-illegal option of flying from Mexico or Canada), and no civil aviation agreement in place between Cuba and the United States for anything other than existing charter travel through the US-based travel companies licensed to transport Americans to Cuba, whose nice little monopoly on that market will hopefully soon be eroded as our enterprising commercial airlines wrestle to put your butt in a seat on a flight to Havana. American, United, Delta and JetBlue all currently operate charter flights to Cuba and should have a leg up on the competition.
Since the island was the second most popular Caribbean destination for international travelers during the first nine months of 2014, I can’t wait to see who will operate the first scheduled commercial flights for that ninety-mile puddle jump from the southern tip of Florida. Cuba libre, anyone?