President Barack Obama’s executive order to broaden travel to Cuba, including religious, academic, cultural and “people to people” activities, is yet another important step toward the end goal: easing all travel restrictions, said Lisa Simon, NTA president.
“Freedom to travel anywhere is a basic element in our rights as United States citizens. We’re thrilled about President Obama’s latest move, and we anticipate this will spark even greater interest in what is already a huge desire for Americans to go to Cuba,” said Simon.
Until last Friday when the new policy was announced, only U.S. citizens with close relatives in Cuba or those holding very restricted licenses were able to travel there.
“President Obama’s executive order has broadened the scope of these licenses, and our tour operator members are perfectly prepared to work with qualified organizations to run these kinds of tours and satisfy the travelers’ demand that we’ll most certainly see,” Simon said.
For years NTA has supported legislation to open Cuba as this would build business and open a broader cultural exchange, Simon said. In these efforts, NTA has worked with a broad coalition including agricultural, religious, human rights, economic and travel organizations.
Besides its legislative advocacy, NTA has worked to educate and prepare the industry for the eventual end of all travel restrictions. In March 2010, NTA, along with the United States Tour Operators Association and Cuba expert Kirby Jones of Alamar Associates, conducted the U.S.-Cuba Travel Summit, which brought together Cuban travel ministers with U.S. travel professionals interested in being at the forefront of this market when it’s opened.
Also, in September 2009, NTA conducted a New York City media tour with USTOA and Congressman Sam Farr, D-Calif., to raise visibility of the issue.
NTA thanked President Obama for this latest executive order, and also thanked members of the Cuba Policy Roundtable for its work on the issue. Others instrumental to the efforts are Farr, also co-chair of the Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus; former Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Representative Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; former Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass.; House Agricultural Committee Chairman Colin Peterson, D-Minn.; and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif.