Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spotlight On Cuba and Haiti

Both the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Haiti have been spotlighted this past week for different reasons, and neither island is usually on the average American's vacation plans.

Jay Z and Beyonce's visit to the island of Cuba has sparked a lot of controversy - along with confusion on the current U.S. travel policy in regards to Americans traveling to the island.

Photo Courtesy of Cubasí

Many people are asking why they would want to travel to Cuba for their anniversary.

I'll take a guess . . . Beautiful weather, beaches, great food, authentic culture and music - and perhaps somewhere they have not traveled. Other than that, I won't weigh in on the controversy and politics, but instead answer the most frequent question posed this week. 

Is it legal for American citizens to travel to Cuba? 

Things changed in 2012 after a 51-year U.S. embargo against Cuba. The Obama administration lifted some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba which allowed Cuban-Americans the opportunity to return home to visit family and friends. 

The new policy also states American travelers can now participate in the "People to People" travel program which requires a vacation itinerary. The U.S. Treasury Department's guidelines state that each traveler must have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.

Americans can travel to Cuba through travel agencies that sell leisure packages, and through these agencies travel must follow the itinerary guidelines stated above. Check out these Travel Agencies - Insight Cuba   International Expeditions -  Marazul  

Cuba is - and has been - a popular destination for Canadians and European travelers. Many Americans may not be aware their fellow citizens have been traveling to Cuba for years via Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, along with other countries offering flights to the island. 

Note: Cuban customs officials are familiar with American travelers entering the island from other countries, and they do not stamp American passports. In the eyes of the U.S. government traveling to Cuba from another country is illegal for American citizens. 

While passports are not stamped in Cuba, Americans should be aware that having TWO entry passport stamps from the country used for travel to and from Cuba could raise suspicion with customs officials when returning back to the U.S. If you want specific info on U.S. regulations governing travel to Cuba, visit the Department of Treasury's OFAC website. 

Images of Cuba via Pinterest

Haiti making news in the tourism industry with a 40% growth in new hotel accommodations 

Last year Haiti hosted travel agents from the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and the new tourism minister Stephanie Villedrouin is busy laying out plans to make Haiti another Caribbean tourist destination.

The new luxury Best Western Premier Pétion-Ville just opened, and is the first Haitian hotel with a U.S. chain affiliation

The property overlooks the hills of the Port-au-Prince suburb, and is located less than 30 minutes from Port-au-Prince International Airport. 

The the 106-room hotel will cater primarily to business travelers and aid workers, complimentary transfers to and from the airport, and the goal is to offer luxury vacations to the island.

In December 2012 Haiti’s luxury Royal Oasis hotel opened as the country’s first internationally branded hotel in more than a decade - and the first multi-million dollar, locally built and financed project since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. 

In fact the earthquake delayed construction, and wiped out $6.5 million in capital investment.

In the mid-range price category is the NH El Rancho Hotel, it's also located in Haiti's Petion-Ville area - Have not found a property website, but it appears to be available for booking through Expedia

Images of Haiti via Pinterest

Happy Travels, 
Travel 2 the Caribbean

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