People-to-People Programs to Cuba Are Gaining Popularity
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., April 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Even though the Obama Administration reauthorized legal educational travel to Cuba in 2011, most Americans still aren't aware they are allowed to travel with a licensed operator to the country under the Treasury Department's people-to-people cultural exchange program. Available to any U.S. citizen, one doesn't have to be a world-renowned pop star or navigate mounds of paperwork to discover an island formally closed off to Americans.
While restrictions on visitor activities are closely adhered to, it is a misperception that Cuba is off limits to Americans. In fact, tens of thousands of Americans have participated in people-to-people tours since the opportunity was reinstated more than two years ago – and programs are continuing to gain popularity."Most people don't realize they can travel to Cuba legally, and do so on one of the most meaningful travel experiences available," said Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba, a leading provider and pioneer in legal, small group people-to-people travel for Americans to Cuba. "People-to-people travel offers an extraordinary opportunity to meet Cubans in real life settings. With direct access, you get to know them, appreciate their warmth and tenacity as a people, and develop a deeper understanding of their rich culture and history." Only the Third Time in Fifty YearsWhile this August will mark the second anniversary of Americans traveling to Cuba on people-to-people trips since President Obama reintroduced the initiative in 2011, this is only the third time in 50 years that such an opportunity has existed. President Carter eased the travel restrictions in 1977 only to have them quickly reversed. President Clinton first introduced people-to-people travel in 2000, but the window closed again in 2003. While people-to-people travel is gaining in popularity, "Time will only tell how long this opportunity will last," said Popper. "We've seen it come, and we've seen it go before." People-to-People TravelGoing on an approved tour to Cuba is not a typical Caribbean vacation; OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) requires full participation in authorized daily educational activities and excursions. Going to the beach, fishing, and engaging in other leisure activities are not part of the experience. With Insight Cuba, travelers get a true glimpse of daily Cuban life through touching interactions with locals at places like the AfroCuba de Matanzas and in the homes of budding artists and musicians. They get to know the children and teachers at their schools and see what life is like in Cuba and share with them what life is like in the United States. "These are not necessarily the types of experiences average tourists can experience on their own," added Popper. How to Legally Travel to Cuba Step 1: Know that Americans can legally travel to Cuba with an organization that has a people-to-people license issued from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Step 2: Search online for "travel to Cuba" or "legal travel to Cuba" to find a licensed provider of people-to-people trips. Step 3: Keep in mind that only U.S. companies are authorized to send Americans legally (Canadian operators which sell Cuba do not qualify). Step 4: Feel comfortable with the company's level of experience based on the information they provide on their website, in their brochures, and which you receive from their representatives.