While pure tourism is still not technically allowed for Americans in Cuba, the travel ban is over – the veil has been lifted and Cuba is now open legally to all. Under new rules issued in response to President Obama’s decision to strengthen ties between Washington and Havana, it is now easier than it has been in the last 60 years to travel to Cuba.
Three things to keep in mind–
1. No More Licenses to Travel to Cuba
Missionaries, journalists, students, aid workers and conference attendees all had to travel under U.S. Department of Treasury Licenses until today, in order to visit Cuba legally. Now, if you fit into one of these categories no license is needed.
Let me lay this out clearly – you can now travel under the auspices of the religious waiver even if your “pilgrimage” to a Havana cathedral to light a candle or take part in Mass is just a small part of what might be considered a touristic journey.
2. You can Now Import Havana Club and Cuban Cigars!
The strict import ban has been lifted – Americans now may import up to $400 in souvenirs including up to $100 in tobacco or alcohol products. Still a bit restrictive, but it’s a start.
3. Airlines Can Re-Establish Commercial Service Immediately to Cuba
The legacies already serve Havana on special charter flights, but the new guidelines permit airlines to re-establish commercial service and no longer must verify that passengers are licensed to travel to Cuba.
Already, United has announced, “We plan to serve Cuba, subject to government approvals, and look forward to doing so from our global gateways of EWR and IAH.”
I look forward to flying to Havana on United! No doubt, Delta, American, JetBlue, and Southwest are looking into route options as well.
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Bottom line, all Americans can now travel to Cuba and airlines will resume scheduled service to Havana soon. Change in Cuba will not happen overnight, but it will not just be American tourists flying there – it will be contractors and companies looking to exploit (I use the term in the positive sense) new opportunities in Cuba.
Cuba is not exactly unadulterated of American tourists – an estimated 100K visited last year – but now is a great time to check out the failed state in its pre-Capitalist “beauty”.