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For many years, travel by Americans to Cuba has been restricted due to the United States restricting its citizens from visiting the Caribbean country. However, those travel restrictions have been replaced by new regulations recently announced by President Barack Obama and this has led to renewed interest in the communist country.



The new rules have removed the requirement for travelers to seek permission from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in order to travel to Cuba legally. The changes will allow most Americans to travel to Cuba, if they qualify for one of 12 categories of travel permitted under a general license. These include:


1. Family visits
2. Official business of the US/foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organization
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions and athletic competitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
11. Exporting or importing information or “information materials”
12. Travel related to some authorized export transactions


With these 12 categories, no doubt more Americans will get the opportunity to visit Cuba which as a tourist destination has similar appeal to other Caribbean islands – the magnificent beaches, food, and the warm tropical climate.


What has piqued renewed interest, however, is the historic allure of a country seemingly steeped in a timeless era due to decades of being locked away from the rest of the world. But the historic appeal and un-spoilt nature of the Cuba may work against it where tourism is concerned.


The country is the second most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean and already gets around 3 million visitors each year. So does it have the hotel capacity to handle the potential influx of American tourists? There is also the question of airlift capacity and the absence of regularly scheduled flights. Additionally, many of the infrastructure developments that are common place in other Caribbean destinations are not yet available in Cuba, and tourists who are accustomed to these amenities will have to settle for a more rustic adventure.


Understandably, the relaxing of US-Cuba travel relations has caused some anxiety in other Caribbean destinations since Americans account for the vast majority of visitors to the region. Over 13 million Americans (nearly half of the overall total) visited the Caribbean last year according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization and some fear that these tourists will bypass their countries to feed their curiosity into the relatively untouched destination.


However, even with the new regulations, it will be some time before Americans will be flocking to the country in droves. Most travelers will still have to certify in writing that they have a valid reason to travel to Cuba, and persons who violate the restrictions could face a hefty fine.



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