Black Meetings and Tourism

May / June 2017

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S o the question remains can Americans legally visit Cuba? With over 600,000 of us traveling to the Pearl of the Caribbean last year, the answer is a resounding YES! In December 2014, President Barack Obama relaxed the travel restrictions to Cuba and there's been no looking back since. With over 11 million inhabitants and nearly 43,000 sq. miles, Cuba is the biggest island in the Caribbean and has always enjoyed the largest tourism numbers. With the influx of visitors from Maine to California taking the quick flight from the U.S., that number jumped to over 4 million in 2016. A ctually, it's surprisingly easy. There are 12 approved travel categories, under one of which we must self-certify we are traveling, and they include: 1. Family visits 2. Official government business 3. Journalistic activity 4. Professional research and professional meetings 5. Educational activities / People-to-People travel 6. Religious activities 7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions 8. Support for the Cuban people 9. Humanitarian projects 10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes 11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of 12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines. About 95% of all Americans traveling to Cuba do so under category #5. As long as you can demonstrate you are including cultural, historical and/or peo- ple-to-people interactions in your itinerary, you're good to go! Of course this is easy-peasy as you surely wouldn't want to visit a nation that's been off limits for most, or all, of our lifetimes, without engaging in as many of those activities as you can. It's important to keep in mind, however, that Americans are still not allowed to travel to Cuba for pure tourism, in other words, you cannot book a beach vacation and lay in the sun every day you're there. Upon arrival at the airport you will immediately see that Cuba is quite dif- ferent than anything you've experienced and at the same time, quite the same. Processing through immigration is quick and easy, and when you enter the baggage area, it looks the same, smells the same and pretty much is the BY MYA REYES M EET M E I N CU B A ! 14 B M & T ••• May/June 2017 •••

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