On Tuesday, Insight Cuba, a division of Cross Cultural Solutions, which specializes in short-term volunteer abroad programs, was reauthorized by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to send Americans to Cuba.
When the Obama administration reversed the previous administration’s policy and posted new travel regulations allowing People-to-People educational travel, Insight Cuba was among the first to submit its application for a new license.
The People-to-People initiative requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country. It was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before President Obama resurrected the program this January.
Your clients do not have to be a certain age, do not have to have family in Cuba and do not have to be students. They merely have to register for one of Insight Cuba’s People-to-People programs, which includes visiting the studio of a local artist, going to an elementary school and meeting with the students and teachers, visiting jazz institutes, meeting farmers who grow tobacco and more.
“These trips are a bit more stimulating than your regular, relaxing vacation where you are just going to pull out a lounge chair and sit on the beach all day,” Tom Popper, director of Insight Cuba, told Travel Agent. “There is usually a full program that we require all of our applicants to take part in, but we also offer some free time in the afternoon and at night.”
Before the program was suspended in 2004, Popper says Insight Cuba was sending roughly 250,000-500,000 American to Cuba annually. Popper says he expects that number to grow this time around to roughly 500,000-700,000 annually. In fact, Popper says Insight Cuba is already in heavy discussions to partner with a major U.S. tour operator, but could not give us further details.
Insight Cuba will be offering three, inaugural trips to Cuba from August 11-18 and a fourth from August 11-19. The program will begin regular operations in September, Popper says. Clients can visit Insight Cuba’s website to register.
“My personal philosophy is people who travel internationally, people with the travel bug, always remember the people they met on their trips,” Popper says. “If you ask someone coming back from a trip what their fondest memory was, I bet it had something to do with the people of the country they visited. We try to provide that for you. When we provide you with the opportunity to visit people and places in Cuba, you get injected into a culture. And those are usually the memories you walk away with.”