On August 14, Secretary of State John Kerry raised the American flag above the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, for the first time in 54 years. This followed President Barack Obama's December 2014 announcement that the United States would begin to normalize relations with Cuba.
What do changes in the Obama administration's policies toward Cuba mean for travelers?
In the months following the announcement, travel industry suppliers have begun offering opportunities to visit the island, although restrictions still remain. As of this spring, U.S. travelers were still required to fit into one of twelve categories, including family visits; official U.S. business; journalism; professional research; educational, religious, or humanitarian activities; public performances; and several other professional or philanthropic reasons. Traveling to Cuba simply as a tourist remains illegal.
Charter flights were until recently the most convenient means of visiting Cuba; soon, direct commercial flights may be available at more hubs. In April, Cheapair.com became the first site to allow American travelers to book direct flights from the U.S. to Havana, via charter company Cuba Travel Services, offering daily flights out of Miami, twice-weekly flights from Tampa, and weekly service from New York City. July 3 is slated as the start date for flights from New York-JFK to Havana on JetBlue planes, although the trip is sold as a charter flight through Cuba Travel Services. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall airport announced mid-May that beginning September 30, Island Travel & Tours, Ltd. would offer nonstop service from Baltimore/Washington D.C. to Havana, with flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Also mid-May, direct charter and commercial flights from Minneapolis to Havana were approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but regularly scheduled flights have not yet been announced.
To read more about the current status of travel to Cuba, click here to read the related article in its entirety in the digital edition of Groups Today magazine.