- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Here come the turistas? Well that did not take long. President Obama’s announcement of a major policy change towards Cuba is only days old, but would-be tourists are already scurrying towards the allure of the long isolated nation. Insight Cuba, a non-profit travel organization that has specialized in legal “people-to-people” travel to Cuba for Americans for years, has just added 70 additional departure dates to keep up with the sudden surge in interest and bookings since Mr. Obama’s revelations.

“People love to be part of history, and there hasn’t been a better time to travel to Cuba. Everyone wants to see Cuba before it changes,” says Tom Popper, president of the group. And among the formal tour offerings: Undiscovered Cuba, Vintage Cuba, Classic Cuba, Scenic Cuba, and Jazz in Havana - complete with appealing branding: “It’s often said that visiting Cuba is like traveling back in time. Indeed, the classic cars, weathered buildings, and unique history create an unforgettable experience in this enchanting country, one that stays with visitors long after they return home,” the group notes.

According to Brian Major, an analyst for TravelPulse, an industry source, some 170,000 authorized travelers visited Cuba in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most were close relatives of Cubans, academics and people on licensed cultural education programs, who can visit under people-to-people guidelines established during the Clinton Administration, he says.

“The range of permitted travelers will expand under the Obama administration’s changes. Henceforth more government officials, journalists, professional researchers, educators, religious officials, performers, humanitarians, emissaries of private foundations, and importers or exporters, will be authorized to travel to Cuba,” Mr. Major notes.

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