By: Gay Nagle Myers
Engage Cuba, a public policy group created to push for an end to the 53-year trade embargo with Cuba, marked its launch on June 16 by airing a 30-second television ad on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC to gain support for overturning the law that restricts Americans’ travel to Cuba.
The TV ad titled "Guess What?" points out that Americans are allowed to travel to North Korea but cannot book a flight to Cuba and that an estimated $5.9 billion in annual U.S. exports currently is blocked by the ban on trade with Cuba.
ASTA is joining Engage Cuba as a founding member, joining coalition members that include the National Foreign Trade Council, National Association of Manufacturers, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Council of the Americas.
Other organizations affiliated with Engage Cuba include the Center for Democracy in the Americas and Cuba Study Group, along with private sector companies Choice Hotels and Proctor & Gamble.
"The benefits of increased engagement actually go beyond the shores of Cuba," said ASTA CEO Zane Kerby. "We believe that lifting the travel ban will bring economic benefits to Cuba's neighbors as well and the travel industry that serves them by generating demand for new passenger routes, tours and travel agent services."
Engage Cuba is considering expanded ad buys in specific markets and in a variety of mediums, including online and social media, according to the organization’s president, James Williams. Besides the ad, Engage Cuba is working to create state councils of local business and civic leaders.
"Since December, we've heard from Americans who cannot believe the U.S. government is denying us the right to travel anywhere in the world. Public polls show that Americans are tired of this policy. We want our government to let us play a role in this significant period of transition," Williams said.
Engage Cuba is working with Republican lobbying firm Fierce Government Relations to coordinate its legislative strategy in Congress.