Mediaplanet recently interviewed CITA President and Founder Scott Andrews as part of their Modern Wellness Guide series highlighting Cuba as a newly available destination for U.S. travelers.
Mediaplanet: What are some of the ways that Americans can experience Cuban culture beyond tourism?
Scott Andrews: Unlike most tourist destinations, the normal, everyday life of Cuban people is taking place everywhere you go. Simply exploring the city streets of Havana, visitors discover street vendors selling vegetables, kids playing soccer in their school uniforms, men enjoying dominos and arguing baseball and all manner of everyday life in Cuba. Forget the tourists; Havana is a vibrant and exciting city all its own.
MP: Are there specific regulations Americans should be aware of prior to Cuban travel?
SA: American passport holders may travel to Cuba legally under one of several “open license” categories allowed by the U.S. government. Many U.S. visitors traveling to Cuba with groups do so under the “People to People” category of legal travel. People to People visitors to Cuba are required to follow a full schedule of activities, all involving interaction with Cuban people.
MP: What makes Cuba one of the top travel destinations for 2016?
SA: Cuba is not only a unique destination in the Caribbean; it is unique in the world. Many tourists travel from Canada, Europe and South America to experience the Cuban culture untouched by the trappings of capitalism. Nowhere in the world has Cuba’s unique combination of socialistic order, Caribbean vibe, music, art and warm, friendly people eager to learn and interact with international visitors.
MP: Is there one specific “must-see” in Cuba?
SA: The heart of Cuba is Old Havana. This beautifully restored area of the city looks and feels as much like Seville, Spain as it does a city located on a Caribbean island. Old Havana showcases the history, energy, charm, warmth, hope and progressive growth of Cuba as beautifully as anywhere else in the country. Cuba is Havana, and all the best of Havana is found in the street of Old Havana.
MP: Can you recommend one city-oriented thing to do, plus something in the countryside?
SA: A walking tour through the four plazas of Old Havana is a great way to see the city, learn about its history and Spanish colonial architecture, meet and interact with the local people and enjoy some incredibly good food. A day trip to La Tarrazas, a community project located a short distance outside of Havana, provides a fascinating look at a thriving rural community in a beautiful natural setting.
MP: How has travel to Cuba become easier for Americans lately?
SA: Last year, the Obama administration took several steps to ease the travel restrictions associated with legal travel to Cuba by U.S. passport holders. Visitors to Cuba from the U.S. are now allowed to travel with a sponsoring tour group in several categories of allowable travel, without pre-approval. There is no longer a limit on the amount of spending allowed, and U.S. visitors can even bring back cigars.