On the heels of the news that tour operator Globus will begin sending U.S. clients to Cuba in 2012 on religious tours approved by the Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture, Travel Agent learned that it could also be preparing additional itineraries through the People to People educational travel program “very soon,” according to Mike Schields, Globus’ director of group sales and emerging markets.
The People to People education program is an initiative that 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.
“It will be very soon, sooner rather than later,” Schields says about the company’s announcement to offer People to People trips. “We basically have a skeleton of the tours we would like to conduct. The framework is there. We are just waiting on the green light.”
The already-approved religious education tours organized by Globus are set to launch sometime in 2012. Some tour highlights include visiting El Templete where Havana’s first Catholic mass was celebrated nearly 500 years ago; a guided tour through world-famous Colon Cemetery, where an expert will explain the flamboyant chapels, vaults, tombs and galleries and more.
“You don’t have to be very religious in order to go on these tours,” says Schields. “You simply have to have some level of appreciation for religion, even if its just admiring the beauty of some these churches. This is not a pilgrimage. This is rather a tour with a religious focus.”
And religious tours is something that Globus knows a lot about.
“We’ve always offered religious tours and we already had many in place, which is why I think we were approved so quickly for this,” Schields says. “The People to People tours took a little more work, but we are confident we will have them as well.”
Whereas the religious tours will be set primarily in Havana, Schields says the People to People itineraries will center around the countryside towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Cienfuegos is a city on the southern coast of Cuba, and is the capital of the province of Cienfuegos. It is located about 155 miles from Havana. Trinidad is a town in the province of Sancti Spíritus, which is located in central Cuba.
“This is something we are really excited about and think agents should really take advantage of right away,” Schields says, nothing that agents receive the standard Globus commission of 10 to16 percent, depending on the volume. “What’s going to happen when everyone can go to Cuba? When there are new hotels all over the place? The appeal of Cuba is that it's basically a 50-year time warp. Will it stay that way? Who knows? So, people should really try and see it right away.”