WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ahead of the Trump Administration's upcoming release of its U.S.-Cuba policy review, over 40 leading U.S. travel companies and associations, including the American Society of Travel Agents, the National Tour Association and the United States Tour Operators Association, urged President Trump not to roll back expanded U.S. travel to Cuba, which would lead to a significant loss of American jobs and stifle economic growth in Cuba's burgeoning private sector.
The letter, organized by Cuba Educational Travel, additionally asks President Trump to support private sector growth in both the U.S. and Cuba by removing inefficient and unnecessary government regulations in order to further expand U.S. travel to Cuba.
"The increase in American visitors to Cuba has had a significant impact on our businesses by increasing our revenue and allowing us to hire more American employees," the group of travel providers wrote to President Trump.
The tour groups added that removing arbitrary bureaucratic red tape on travel to Cuba, "has allowed U.S. officials to spend more time focusing on real national security threats, such as organized crime and terrorism, and not waste resources on investigating Americans who simply wish to exercise their right to visit our island neighbor."
The letter also highlights the significant economic support U.S. travelers to Cuba have provided Cuban entrepreneurs and small business owners. American travel to Cuba, "has helped the Cuban private sector, and fostered strong relationships between Americans and Cuban religious organizations and humanitarian programs," the travel groups wrote.
“Demand for travel to Cuba is skyrocketing; from group tours to events to individual travel, and the interactions between Americans and Cubans couldn’t be richer,” said Collin Laverty, President of Cuba Educational Travel. “U.S. travelers are the best representatives of American beliefs, ideas and values. The Trump Administration should put U.S. companies and travelers in a position to compete with Chinese, Russian and Venezuelan influence on the island.”
"Every day, more and more Americans want to travel to Cuba. The influx of Americans traveling to Cuba has not only created jobs across the U.S. tourism and travel sectors, but it has also significantly strengthened Cuba's growing private sector," said President of Engage Cuba James Williams. "We're hopeful that the Administration's Cuba policy review will take into consideration the opinions of a U.S. industry that supports 7.6 million U.S. jobs, the vast majority of the American public, and the Cuban people over a few politicians in Washington."
“ASTA and its more than 9,200 members have long believed that U.S. citizens deserve the freedom to travel across the globe without restriction from their own government, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad,” said Zane Kerby, President & CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). “With our recent consumer research showing Americans support lifting the Cuba travel ban by a 3 to 1 margin, we urge the Trump Administration to not only keep in place current regulations but to call for a lifting of the statutory ban on Cuba travel.”
Since the easing of travel and trade restrictions, dozens of U.S. tourism companies have moved into Cuban markets. Starwood hotel now manages a hotel in Cuba, U.S. cruise ships and U.S. commercial flights have resumed service to Cuba, and U.S. travel company behemoths including Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb now offer services for Americans to book travel to Cuba.
While traveling to Cuba as a tourist is still prohibited, Americans can now visit Cuba under 12 categories, including individually authorized people-to-people or educational travel. As a result, American demand to visit Cuba has skyrocketed over the past two years. Expanded travel to Cuba is supported by 81% of the American public, including 71% of Republicans, and 74% of the Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade county.
In addition to U.S. travel groups and the vast majority of the American public, over 100 U.S. agriculture groups, the National Association of Manufacturers, retired former U.S. military generals and almost 100% of the Cuban people support expanding travel and trade with Cuba.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
May 24, 2017
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump:
We write to you as travel service providers who offer legal, authorized travel to Cuba. The last several years have seen a huge growth in the number of U.S. authorized travelers visiting Cuba through our services, which has in turn strengthened our businesses and helped the Cuban people. We’re optimistic that your Administration will take our insight into consideration and identify and value these benefits of increased travel to Cuba to both the American and Cuban private sectors as part of the current U.S.-Cuba policy review.
The increase in American visitors to Cuba has had a significant impact on our businesses by increasing our revenue and allowing us to hire more American employees. Additionally, it has helped the Cuban private sector, and fostered strong relationships between Americans and Cuban religious organizations and humanitarian programs.
Allowing travel on a general license has streamlined an overly bureaucratic process of receiving permission to travel to Cuba. This has allowed our companies to better focus on strengthening our services as the tedious process of applying for case specific approvals has been removed. Additionally, it has allowed U.S. officials to spend more time focusing on real national security threats, such as organized crime and terrorism, and not waste resources on investigating Americans who simply wish to exercise their right to visit our island neighbor.
Aviation agreements between the U.S. and Cuba have reduced the price of travel to Cuba for U.S. travelers and offered considerably more routes. This makes travel to Cuba more orderly, convenient and safe, and has greatly increased the likelihood of U.S. travelers to visit the island. Additionally, it has made it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit their loved ones on the island.
Due to increased demand, our companies have brought on additional staff to handle the high volume of travel to Cuba. This is good for the local economies where we operate and the national economy. We are providing jobs to American workers, paying local and federal taxes and contracting U.S. companies for our services. With continued growth, we will continue to hire more American workers and support the U.S. economy. A rollback of the current policy would lead to significant layoffs at many of our companies.
Many U.S. travelers visiting Cuba stay in privately run B&Bs, dine at private restaurants, hire independent taxis and purchase goods and services from entrepreneurs. They are greatly supporting the growth of the Cuban private sector. U.S. travelers often visit with Cuban religious organizations, building important links between faith communities. Moreover, many travelers visit and provide support to independent community organizations and cultural programs.
U.S. travelers to Cuba are the best ambassadors of American society. They interact and develop meaningful relationships with Cubans at all levels of society and promote U.S. culture and economic interests, preserving business opportunities for U.S. companies currently losing out to competitors from other countries. We encourage your administration to take note of the wide-ranging U.S. economic benefits and prioritize economic growth and job creation in the review of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Academic Arrangements Abroad
American Society of Travel Agents
Art Quest International
Blanco International Service
Blasa Mana Corporation
Caribbean American Children Foundation
Caribbean Biking Company
Caribe Express Inc
Carlson Maritime Travel
Cuba Cultural Travel
Cuba Educational Travel
Cuba Tours and Travel
Diaspora Exchange Solutions (DiasporaES)
Education Travel Alliance
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Jensen World Travel
National Tour Association
Photo Workshop Adventures
The Orvis Company
The Special Travel
Turismo Tony Perez
United States Tour Operators Association
Wilson International Service