Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ASTA on Travel to Cuba

US travelers predicted to flood Cuba after restrictions end

By eTN Staff Writer

An estimate of 1,798,000 tourists from the US will visit Cuba annually within two years of the end of travel restrictions.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) testified to the US International Trade Commission on April 24 that by conservative estimates 1,798,000 Americans will visit Cuba annually within two years of the end of travel restrictions. Paul Ruden, ASTA’s senior vice president for Legal and Industry Affairs, predicted there would be 835,000 recreational visits by air, 480,000 cruise visitors and 482,000 family visitors. He noted that another study had estimated 2.8 million total visits annually.

ASTA was invited to testify as the representative of the travel industry because at the request of Congress the USITC is preparing a report on the economic impact in the US of its unilateral embargo of Cuba.The report will add impetus to the debate on Capitol Hill about ending travel restrictions this year. A bill introduced in the House in January (HR 654) has gathered 103 cosponsors. Similar legislation submitted in the Senate in March (S 721) has twenty cosponsors.

John McAuliff, facilitator of the ad hoc Travel Industry Committee on Cuba, warned that, "Congress could focus on easier humanitarian legislation that permits only family reunion visits by Cuban Americans if the nationwide travel industry does not make its interests known by June."

ASTA is on record favoring the end of travel restrictions, testifying in 2000 before USITC:

"It is an ASTA core principal that travel restrictions should not be used as an instrument of governmental policy. Travel and tourism are essential to fostering constructive interactions for the benefit of all peoples and in furtherance of world peace... More than just the proverbial 'two edged sword,' travel restrictions are a sword without a hilt. They injure he who wields them as much as their intended victim."

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll in February found that 18 percent of Americans would be “very interested” and 22 percent “somewhat interested” in going to Cuba on vacation.

Printable Version published May 11, 2007 published: Friday, 11 May 2007, GMT © 2006 All rights reserved.

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