People-to-People Cuba is the program describing the license that authorizes guided educational and cultural tours for Americans traveling to Cuba. In this section, travelguidecuba.com will try to dispel the rumors and misunderstandings about legal People-to-People travel and provide helpful hints about how to enjoy your People-to-People Cuba tour.
In 2010, President Barack Obama approved expanded travel for Americans interested in learning more about Cuba’s diverse culture and for Cuban Americans wishing to visit their homeland. Americans have been barred from visiting Cuba without government permission since passage of the United Stated embargo on October 19, 1960, nearly two years after Fidel Castro deposed the Battista regime and declared the country a communist state.
During the Clinton era, travel to Cuba peaked at about 70,000 American trips per year. The numbers declined sharply during the Bush years with American visitors averaging about 30,000 visits annually.
Obama’s 2010 initiative authorized more travel under the People-to-People Cuba license, which permits specific activities by Americans travel activities. The People-to-People license must be obtained by the tour’s sponsor.
In order for tours to be licensed, the provider must submit a detailed itinerary of a specific tour to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the US Department of Treasury. OFAC expanded the Cuban Assets Control Regulations in January 2011, but significant travel restrictions still exist.
People-to-People licensees must have a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.” People-to-People travelers should expect to mingle and interact with artists, farmers, fisherman, doctors, musicians, view museums, tour private, public galleries, eat at restaurants and follow the tour’s approved itinerary during the daytime. Most tours permit more informal interaction during the evening hours.
People-to-People travelers are subject to daily spending limits and are prohibited from bringing souvenirs or other goods back to the US. People-to-People tours are restricted but Americans are responding with enthusiasm to the program.
The National Statistics Office reports that 73,500 Americans traveled to Cuba in 2011 under educational and cultural travel licenses. More than 98,000 Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012 and 2013 figures are expected to be similar. Approximately 3,000,000 travelers have visited Cuba in each of the last two years. With easing humanitarian and economic controls in Cuba, Americans are gaining new insight into the people and their culture.
Cuban Americans have embraced the new Administration policy. As they are considered nationals by Cuba, Cuban Americans are not considered tourists. More than 350,000 Cuban Americans have flocked to the homeland in both 2012 and 2013. More than 250 Cuba travel agents are approved People-to-People tour guides.
Although tours are restricted, there is much to see, enjoy and learn about life and times in Cuba. There are many different types of tours during high season and in the off season, when prices are reduced. People-to-People Cuba travelers should fully understand their itinerary and comply with tour guidelines.
Since Fidel Castro’s retirement, change is underway in Cuba. Led by President Raul Castro, Cuban society is becoming more open. The Cuban people are very receptive to American travelers and eager to share their multi-cultural heritage.