Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Licenses Open Door to Legal Travel to Cuba
Six months after President Obama announced new regulations for “people-to-people” travel to Cuba, the first licenses have been issued and the picture of possibility is becoming clearer.
I’ve blogged extensively about the provision, which ostensibly has created a legal way for every U.S. citizen to visit Cuba, with the rationale that U.S. travelers can become ambassadors for democratic change on the island through increased contact between Cuban and yanquis. See my May 1, 2011, post: “Travel to Cuba opens to every U.S. citizen”.
Once the regulations were actually issued, in April, 2011, a flood of academic institutions, tour operators, and non-profit organizations began to file applications with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for “specific licenses” to operate “educational exchange” programs to Cuba. In this case, the licenses are for non-academic educational exchange—a fancy way of saying “open to anyone.”
Just don’t call them tours! While the sample itineraries that must be filed with OFAC in the application may resemble a “tour,” the caveat is that the itinerary must include a daily structured program that includes specific daily interactions with individual Cubans.
Now, for the first time since the Clinton administration (which first introduced the people-to-people category of legal travel; President Bush later killed it), even Joe the Plumber can sign up for an authorized group program (the license does not permit individuals to go off from the group and do their own thing) offered through a licensed tour operator or other institution.
I’ve consulted on behalf of five tour companies, four of which have license applications pending and one of which has already been approved. All the companies have invited me to escort trips on their behalf, so stay tuned. In all, according to OFAC, currently eight companies have been approved to operate group trips to Cuba, and another 35 applications are pending (personally I believe the true number is far higher).
I expect to make some major announcements within weeks.
Meanwhile, Harvard University has been licensed and I can now announced that I’ll be joining noted economist Andrew Zimbalist, international affairs expert Stanley Katz and PBS senior correspondent Ray Suarez of 'The NewsHour' and NPR's 'Talk of the Nation' as a guest speaker aboard the Sea Cloud II during a special Harvard University Alumni Affairs trip, "Cuba: A World in Transition" (February 16-27, 2012).
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
For further information about travel in Cuba, buy Moon Cuba
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker