After a fifty-five year travel ban, Americans are beginning to flock to the Caribbean island of Cuba. In mid-March, the United States government began loosening the travel restrictions that have kept Americans out of the tropical country for almost six decades.
As a result of the Obama administration loosening travel restrictions, Americans have begun visiting the tropical country to learn more about Cuba’s rich history. “The new rules mean Americans will be allowed to visit Cuba on their own, instead of on expensive group tours, as long as they declare that the trip is to learn about Cuban people and culture,” notes LA Times reporter Christi Parsons.
Although tourism is still officially barred under the U.S. trade embargo, travel will be permitted for almost any cultural activity, including musical performances, art appreciation and baseball games.
Of course, previously some Americans skirted the government’s ban and visited Cuba via Mexico or Canada, whose citizens can freely travel there. However, the new rule will allow Americans to travel to Cuba without having to leave the United States first.
Many are hoping that this will provide a chance for American students to finally learn about a country that has been off-limits to many of their parents and even grandparents.
Stacy Hoult-Saros, a professor at Valparaiso University, was lucky enough to take an educational trip to Cuba in 2011. Her itinerary took her all over the island, where she visited working-class neighborhoods in Havana and remote agricultural/fishing communities. She also experienced the vibrant performance art community and toured Cuba’s National Assembly and the Museum of the Revolution.
Hoult-Saros told the Chicago Tribune that she thinks a similar trip would be a fantastic opportunity for Valparaiso University students. "Culturally and historically, Cuba is one of the most fascinating countries," she said.
Canadian-based student travel provider S-Trip! has been guiding Cuban tours for a number of years.
As S-Trip! reviews point out, students not only vacation in Cuba, they also work and learn on their trips. “Spend a half day learning about Cuba’s rich history and vibrant culture, while assisting to restore an area of a local school,” points out the S-Trip! website.
S-Trip! has been in operation since 1976 and has quickly become one of Canada’s leading student tourism companies. With a commitment to providing more than just tropical getaways, an S-Trip! trip immerses students in the culture and history of the country they are visiting.
“The Moron City tour is what made me fall in love with Cuba. Being able to roam freely through town, check out all the stores, and talk to the local people gave me a chance to see real life in Cuba,” writes a traveler in his S-Trip! review.
With travel to Cuba finally opening up for Americans, S-Trip! hopes to begin offering their unique tours to Cuba to American students as soon as possible.
“They’ve essentially deregulated travel,” said Robert Muse, a Washington attorney who specializes in U.S. laws regarding Cuba. “This is a standing invitation to travel to Cuba for U.S. tourists.”