InsightCuba: American Travel to Cuba on the Mend
Between hurricanes making headlines, advisories being issued by the U.S. Department of State and the Trump administration’s decision to undo some of President Barak Obama’s policies with regard to American travel, 2017 was not a good year for Cuba tourism.
Tom Popper, president of insightCuba refers to it as the Cuba trifecta, with the impacts of State Department warnings, Trump administration policy changes and hurricane imagery on the nightly news of Havana flooded all having a devastating effect.
“All of 2017 and the first couple months of 2018 were much weaker than prior years,” Popper said during an interview with TravelPulse. “There was definitely some uncertainty in the market after the 2016 election. And then President Trump went to Miami and held a press conference announcing that he was ending Obama policy and media outlets went with that. People read the headlines and were like ‘Well, easy come easy go.’”
In reality, however, very little changed with regard to the laws pertaining to American travel to Cuba, Popper noted.
Finally, that realty seems to be sinking in with travelers who now realize the Cuban travel market hasn’t simply dried up and disappeared.
“Word has started to spread that Cuba’s back,” continued Popper, who says he is witnessing a significant rebound on many levels.
Since May of this year, insightCuba, one of the leading providers and pioneers in legal people-to-people travel for Americans, has seen spikes in leads and bookings for the destination.
“Signs of a comeback began in early January but were inconsistent, with ups and downs through April, but then in May, something started to happen,” said Popper. “For the first time in over a year, we are showing consistent signs of growth in the marketplace.”
Sales revenue has been increasing by about 25 percent month over month for Cuba lately. At the same time, group requests, which sunk to an all-time low in 2017, have been registering a 10-fold increase since July. And many of those requests are translating into fully deposited bookings. The group figures also include a noteworthy increase in multi-generational family travel as well as a spike in professional organization travel.
Inquiries from travel agents are also soaring upward. When comparing June through September of 2017 with the same period this year, insightCuba reports a 40 percent increase in bookings for individuals, groups, and families.
Meanwhile, the Cuban government is also seeing an increase in visitors and has expressed optimism about hitting its goal of five million arrivals in 2018. The island’s hotel industry is also booming.
Meliá hotels is adding 2,145 new hotel rooms through hotel renovation or construction by the end of 2018 in key spots where Americans visit including Cienfuegos, Camaguey, and Varadero.
Iberostar is also opening two new luxury properties: The Grand Packard Hotel, and in eastern Cuba the Iberostar Holguín.
Renovations are also underway for the famed Hotel Riviera in Havana and more hotels are slated to launch across the island in 2019 and beyond, according to insightCuba.
In yet another sign of the island’s compelling comeback, there are now five U.S. commercial airlines providing non-stop service from the U.S. to Cuba including JetBlue, United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Airlines - with new routes launching in November and beyond, according to insightCuba.
One additional point of note, traveling to Cuba is incredibly safe, says Popper. In fact, the U.S. Department of State lowered the travel advisory from Level 3 to Level 2, putting travel to Cuba is on par with such places as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, South Africa, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Spain, Germany, and Denmark.
Riding the wave of all the good news surrounding the destination, insightCuba is preparing to announce new tour offerings to the island.
The company is partnering with world-famous record label Putumayo World Music to create a never-been-done-before series of musical expeditions mirroring Putumayo’s extensive world music album collection.
In addition to private meet-and-greets and performances with artists, Putumayo’s own Jacob Edgar, the person responsible for sourcing the music for more than 200 Putumayo collections, will be accompanying each trip and sharing his insight.
InsighCuba is also preparing to launch “Private Departures” in Cuba in mid-November, which will allow a group of as few as two people to book their own departure date, select whatever hotel they want on the island and whichever itinerary they want.
The trips are slightly more expensive than group tours but are designed to allow for maximum flexibility when visiting Cuba. The new offering will be on the insightCuba website in just a few weeks.
“The options are really going to be endless and the price points will be varied, as well as the amount of time people can travel,” said Popper.
As for the U.S. government travel requirements for Americans visiting Cuba, which caused so much confusion last year, insightCuba handles all of the details and paperwork.
“One of the benefits and one of the reasons people choose to travel with us to Cuba, is we hold their itineraries for the required five years so that people don’t have to worry about keeping a journal or receipts themselves,” he said.
“Now is a great time to visit Cuba,” Popper added. “They just selected a new president. There is a lot of hope in Cuba and that kind of change - it’s a moment in time when people can be part of history.”
Source: Travel Pulse