Travel Markets Insider Newsletter Vol. 16 No. 42 Special Report on Cuba

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Within the first minutes of U.S. President Barack Obama‘s dramatic announcement of an effort to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba after 50 years, I was on the phone with TMI reporters to have them find out what impact this news would have on the travel, cruise, and tourism industries in the region. Our go-to guru, Larry Luxner, having been the publisher of Cuba News for the past ten years, is such an expert on Cuba that he was interviewed on Al – Jazeera television last night about the development.

Despite reports ranging from people dancing in the streets of Havana to hard-line Cuban-Americans protesting in front of Miami’s venerable Versailles CafĂ©, the response to the announcement from the industry has been generally cautiously optimistic. Cruise and tourism officials are rightfully taking a wait-and-see attitude, although the thaw in Cuban-American relations appears to be progressing rapidly. TMI presents a broad range of comments in the following Special Report.

A few caveats. President Obama’s decision to ease travel restrictions and the other embargo-easing measures he is calling for must be approved by Congress. As we have seen, this is not so easily done. It is also unclear how U.S. tourism to Cuba will evolve.

Travel industry intelligence and marketing group Skift reports that visitation numbers to Cuba from Americans, including Cuban-Americans, will set an embargo-era record in 2014. But even as the numbers of U.S. visitors grow, limitations remain.

As Skift points out, U.S. tourists have to book travel to Cuba through certified travel agencies, and only certain categories of Americans are allowed to travel (we discuss these categories Inside Insider – pages 4 & 5) How this will change in the future is unknown. I do know that I, for one, would very much like to be on that first cruise ship to visit Havana!

In addition to Larry’s in-depth report – the first of many we expect to run on this topic – we have excerpts from the Briefing Paper and Fact sheet released by The White House today. I apologize in advance for the political tone of this information, but the content and the attitude are illuminating.

In other news in this special report, Duty Free Americas has won its first airport duty free concession in Brazil, at Afonso Pena International Airport in Curitiba. Page 1.

And Congratulations to Erik Juul-Mortensen, who was unanimously re-elected president of TFWA – for his 16th term!

Rounding out this special edition of TMI, Carnival Cruise Line has tapped CLIA’s Christine Duffy to be president; and Royal Caribbean Cruises has named two of its senior executives to chart the future course of two of the company’s largest brands. More details on page 3.

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