Never one to be outdone by the Rolling Stones, President Obama has announced his historic visit to Cuba. The first sitting president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years, Obama’s visit accompanies a renewed interest in Cuba as a U.S. travel destination. Concurrently, United Airlines, along with other major carriers, are awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide air service from the U.S. directly into Havana. If approved, United will provide Havana-direct service from Houston, Chicago, Newark, and Washington, D.C.
What an amazing chain of events following 55 years of tension between these two countries! First, the announcement easing restrictions for U.S. passport holders traveling to Cuba, then the reinstatement of Cuba and U.S. embassies in each country, and now, President Obama’s visit and the potential for commercial flights – while the U.S. is always only 90 miles from Cuba, Havana is getting closer every day.
The U.S. incentive industry continues to focus on Cuba as an emerging incentive destination. Planners are responding to many client questions about how and when to take incentive groups to Cuba, and what they will experience when they arrive. Consistent with the 40% increase of leisure travel to Cuba from the U.S., we are responding to a similar increase in interest from planners requesting quotes, scheduling site visits, and blocking space for meetings and incentives.
This recent course of events helped create a viable travel model that provides a unique cultural travel opportunity for incentive travelers, while meeting planner expectations for quality and amenities. Now, with President Obama’s visit to Havana and the ongoing focus on Cuba during the political season, Cuba will remain a destination of interest for incentive program decision-makers, and the travel industry in general. Now is the perfect time to schedule a site visit to Havana and block space for 2017 program operations.