Cuba Culture Trips Resume as Licenses are Renewed

The Associated Press is reporting that travel companies say they are getting permits once again to take Americans on cultural trips to Cuba after the U.S. government tightened requirements following complaints that the tours were skirting a ban on outright tourism to the Communist island.

A month after travel companies complained of delays in processing their so-called people-to-people licenses under new restrictions for organized group travel to Cuba, at least 20 have now been granted.

U.S. travel operators say they have kept most of their itineraries intact, but some have added additional programming and eliminated others after Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) criticized the programs as essentially being cover-ups for tourism.

Insight Cuba got the ball rolling in 2011. After Insight Cuba became the first licensed operator to sell Cuba through the People-to-People initiative, other operators joined suit, including Collette Vacations, National Geographic Expeditions and International Expeditions.

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.

For the Associated Press story, click here.

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