While Cuba/U.S. relations are definitely improving, and open travel to Cuba seems to be on the horizon, according to one tour operator, it’s important to remind clients that it is currently against the law for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.
Ronen Paldi, president of Portland-based Ya’lla Tours USA
Ronen Paldi, president of Ya’lla Tours USA, a tour operator that arranges humanitarian tours to Cuba, told TravelAge West he has a bone to pick with Vancouver-based tour operator, Cuba Education Tours, which also does business under the name Zunzun Education Services Ltd.
“In the last six months, Cuba Education Tours has been targeting teachers in the U.S. directly by e-mail and telling them it’s legal to travel to Cuba,” said Paldi. “This isn’t so. The company is also telling teachers to claim they are doing research and to publish a story. If these teachers are caught they can be charged with breaking the law. And if a travel agent books this travel, it’s a felony.”
Paldi added that Cuba Education Tours was first brought to his attention by travel agents in the U.S. In a written release, Paldi said, “We’re encouraging the travel community to not participate or support any questionable travel programs and alert any of their customers that are teachers who were solicited to take those trips.”
Paldi noted that as the prospect for open travel to Cuba becomes a reality, the public is likely to see other tour companies jumping the gun and promoting illegal travel to the island.
A humanitarian travel group sent to Cuba by Ya’lla Tours USA
As a sign that change is in the air, late last month a U.S.-Cuba Travel Summit convened in Cancun, Mexico. High on the agenda were discussions of proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to allow travel to Cuba; presentations by Cuba tourism suppliers and experts; and lots of one-on-one meetings between U.S. travel professionals and their Cuban counterparts, something that would be almost impossible to achieve in their respective countries.
“Cuba is the last frontier for Americans, and it’s only 90 miles from Key West, Florida,” said Paldi. “I think agents should start educating themselves about Cuba. Only those who know what they are doing will be ready to capitalize on the opportunity.”
Ya’lla Tours USA