|From left to right: Cynthia Thomas, president of the Texas-Cuba Trade Alliance; Betsy Ward, president of the USA Rice Federation; Jorge Bolaños, chief of mission at the Cuban Interest Section; Lisa Simon, president of NTA.|
Eliminating travel barriers to Cuba would give an economic boost to U.S. travel businesses, including tour operators, travel agents, airlines and other transportation companies, says NTA President Lisa Simon who was the keynote speaker during a video conference focused on the impact of the U.S. travel ban to Cuba. The conference, “Effects of the U.S. Embargo for Cuba and USA,” was hosted by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.
Simon attributed the recent increase in U.S.-to-Cuba travel to new guidelines based on President Obama’s executive order issued in early 2011. She said remaining restrictions hinder economic development and called for their elimination.
“Restricted travel between the United States and Cuba hurts both countries culturally and economically,” Simon said. “Elimination of the travel ban would immediately create an estimated 15,000 and 20,000 new jobs in the United States. It would also give an economic boost to U.S. travel businesses, like tour operators, travel agents, airlines and other transportation companies.”
The new guidelines regulate travel for religious, academic and cultural travel, with additional allowances for “people-to-people” travel, NTA notes.
“We anticipate this new policy will relieve some of the pent-up demand for Americans to go to Cuba,” Simon said, “and we applaud President Obama’s actions. But it’s not enough.”
Simon added that support for eliminating travel restrictions comes not only from the travel sector, but includes groups representing business, religion, agriculture, academia, cultural institutions and human rights. The diversity of interested parties was reflected in the conference participants, both in Washington and Havana, which included representatives from food and agriculture, legal, humanitarian and travel communities, NTA said.
Other speakers at the conference were Jorge Bolaños, chief of mission at the Cuban Interest Section; Johana Taboada, deputy director of North America division of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Cuba; Betsy Ward, president of the USA Rice Federation; Cynthia Thomas, president of the Texas-Cuba Trade Alliance; Bob Schwartz, executive director of the Disarm Education Fund; and Robert Muse, of the Law Offices of Robert L. Muse.