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Travel Companies React Strongly Against U.S. Travel Warning for Cuba
By James Shillinglaw, Oct 05, 2017
On Sept. 29, 2017, the U.S. State Department issued a Cuba Travel Warning as a result of some unidentified attacks against numerous U.S. Embassy employees. The alleged incidents appear to be isolated to specific residences and rooms occupied by individual employees of the U.S. Embassy. Both governments are working to uncover the mystery of these incidents and the U.S. Embassy in Havana remains open to serve U.S. citizens. But the U.S. also expelled 15 Cuban diplomats.
Now Cuba Travel Services (CTS) is responding that it does not see any reason to believe these alleged incidents pose any danger whatsoever to those traveling to Cuba. In a briefing just last month, the State Department spokeswomen said the incidents were not ongoing.
CTS said none of the 600,000 U.S. citizens or residents who visited Cuba last year, nor the nearly 500,000 who visited this year have been effected by the alleged incident. "Cuba remains one of the safest destinations in the world for American travelers," said Michael Zuccato general manager of CTS. "Safearound.com independently assesses the risk of travel for over 100 cities around the world and has determined Cuba is generally a safe country with almost no violent crimes, organized gang culture, teenage delinquency, drugs or dangerous zones.”
Many in the travel industry carefully assess and track State Department travel warnings because customers' safety the first priority. The Cuba travel warning includes the entire country and is in direct contrast to other travel warnings and alerts, which normally address a specific region or city section.
Some have dismissed the warning claiming they are motivated by Florida politics which have long influenced U.S.-Cuba relations. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and JetBlue are all planning to operate as normal. In addition to the long list of airlines, cruise lines and tour operators continue to arrange travel to Cuba without interruption.
“Cuba Travel Services regularly conducts thorough and comprehensive inspections of its select hotels and excursions in efforts to ensure a safe, secure and rewarding experience for our travelers," said Zuccato. "Just last week an additional inspection was completed in Havana (post Hurricane Irma) and the services were certified safe for travelers."
Michael Goren, president and CEO of Group IST, which introduced small ship cruising people-to-people programs in Cuba in 2013, and now operates Cuba programs under the BeyondCruises by Group IST brand, said Cuba is still one of the safest destinations for American visitors, as well as for all travelers. “There is no hostility toward American visitors by the Cuban people,” he said. “In fact, the opposite is true. The Cuban people are extremely welcoming to the American travelers.”
Goren asserts that cruising is the safest way for American visitors to travel to Cuba. “They are in a protected and safe environment on board a ship,” he said. “We also have our own team on the ground who know exactly what is happening at all times and each exchange with Cubans and people-to-people activity is fully escorted.”
Goren said there is no reason at all for Americans to stop traveling to Cuba and Group IST small ship people-to-people cruising with BeyondCruises offers a very safe and secure travel environment.