Saturday, March 14, 2015

Travel Booming

Winter tourism season booms in Cuba

03/09/2015 5:41 PM 
 03/10/2015 8:46 AM
A dozen tour buses idled along the Malecón and so many tourists were snapping pictures of the giant images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos on a recent day at the Plaza de la Revolución that it looked like a Communist theme park.
Foreign visitors are coming to Cuba in droves this winter season. International visitors were up by 16 percent in January to a record 371,160 compared to the previous year, according to figures from Cuba’s Office of National Statistics and Information.
That came on the heels of a record-setting year in 2014 when 3.003 million international visitors arrived in Cuba. And that’s not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who travel to the island to visit family.
Canada led the way with 181,101 visitors in January for a 15 percent increase, but Germany with 15,832 and England with 14,526 visitors showed the largest percentage increases. Visitor arrivals for those countries were up 37.8 percent and 32.2 percent, respectively.
Rounding out the Top 10 for international visitors were France, Italy, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Russia. However, arrivals from Argentina and Russia — both plagued by economic problems — were down by 24.1 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
Cruise travelers increased from 928 visitors in January 2014, to 3,937 visitors this January, but the industry is still in its infancy in Cuba.
During January, visitors from the United States didn’t crack the top 18 international markets for Cuba. Such visitors fell into the “other” category, which at 75,435 visitors, was up 14 percent.
New, more liberal rules for U.S. travelers were only announced Jan. 15. Travel operators report a flurry of American interest in booking trips to Cuba, but it’s too early to see a major bump in U.S. travel to the island.
However, since President Barack Obama announced Dec. 17 that the United States and Cuba planned to renew diplomatic ties and the U.S. was embarking on a limited travel and commercial opening with Cuba, there’s been a buzz about the island.
Canadian travel websites, for example, have been filled with commentary about how now is the time to visit Cuba before it is overrun by American travelers.
“For Cuba it sounds like the dawn of a chapter of economic opportunity; though for Canadians it’s more likely sunset on an era of cheap winter vacations,” Tony Ward and John Middleton, Canadian tourism professors, wrote in The Globe and Mail.
The new U.S. rules allow visitors in 12 categories, including educational, research and humanitarian and participants in sporting events and performances, to travel to the island without seeking prior approval from the U.S. government. The new guidelines also make it easier for travel providers to plan trips and sell tickets.
But Americans in those categories are all supposed to engage in purposeful travel — rather than lazy days at the beach and trips planned solely around tourism sites.
Presumably that means they won’t be visiting Jardines del Rey, a sandy archipelago with coral reefs off Cuba’s northern coast that is being developed as a rival to Cuba’s famed Varadero Beach. It too is having its best winter season ever.
Located in the provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila in central Cuba, Jardines del Rey has 16 hotels with more than 6,000 rooms and will be the site of Cuba’s International Tourism Fair in May.
So far this winter, AIN — the Cuban National Information Agency — reports that Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, which are part of Jardines del Rey, have been hosting a record 7,000 visitors a day. The destination is receiving 40 flights weekly.
AIN also recently reported that a Chinese company, Beijing Enterprises Holdings, was in talks with the Cuban state company Palmares to form a joint venture to develop a resort complex with a five-star hotel and golf course in Bellomonte, east of Havana.
Air China is looking into establishing a direct flight between Beijing and Havana in the fall, according to Ma Kequian, the economic and commercial officer at the Chinese Embassy in Havana.

Read more here:
Tourists take in the sights from a double-decker tour bus a day after the second round of diplomatic talks between the United States and Cuban officials took place in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 28, 2015.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Visit by President of Black Hawk College

BHC president visits Cuba; closer ties may result

    BHC president  visits Cuba; closer ties may result
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015 8:26 pm | Updated: 11:48 pm, Fri Mar 6, 2015.
MOLINE -- A trip to Cuba could mean closer ties between America's neighbor and Black Hawk College. 
Black Hawk President Bettie A. Truitt was among a group of Illinois community college officials who visited the island nation from Feb. 15 to 22. The trip was organized by the Illinois Community College Board and the delegation met Cuban professors, students and education administrators, and observed farming and small-business practices.
Ms. Truitt said she hopes to establish exchange programs for professors and students. She is already working to bring one professor, Mario Mas Vidal, to Black Hawk as a speaker because his lecture on Cuba's history and culture impressed her so much.
"We're thinking he would be a great fit for our students," she said. 
His talk, early on in the trip, spanned the era from around the Cuban Revolution to the 1990s, when Cuba experienced scarce food and limited electricity because of the loss of support from the Soviet Union after that nation broke up. 
She said she would like to give other professors the same opportunity and establish an exchange for students, first in the arts -- where she said the Cubans have put a lot of emphasis -- but later broadening it to other fields. 
Adding a section on Cuban art into Black Hawks' art appreciation classes is another idea Ms. Truitt is considering, she said.
The group also visited a family that raised goats and produced honey and fruit on a small farm, she said. The farm was largely self-sufficient. 
Cuba's government has begun allowing small-scale entrepreneurs to operate businesses like restaurants, often from their homes, she said.  
The farm family, for example, was running a small pottery business to supplement their income from agriculture, Ms. Truitt said. 
There is a lot of opportunity there for an exchange of ideas on business practice, she said. 
Ms. Truitt said she found the Cubans warm and hopeful.
In December, President Barack Obama announced that the United States will try to normalize relations with the island nation. 
The U.S.'s relationship with Cuba, which has a communist government, has been dangerous at worst and chill at best for decades. Travel between the two nations has long been heavily restricted.
"They're (the Cubans) looking to America for what their tomorrow is going to look like," Ms. Truitt said.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

George Mason University Summer Program in Havana

Undergraduates can spend one month in Cuba earning SIX credits in Anthropology, Global Affairs, History, and/or Honors!

The Center for Global Education at George Mason University invites you to participate in Exploring Cuba: Past, Present and Future.
Students will explore and experience Cuba in a moment of transition. Cuba’s unique political and economic history has long made it the subject of intense intellectual debate. The recent announcement of a “normalization” of relations between the U.S. and Cuba have Cubans, along with the rest of the world, creating expectations about what changes the future will bring, making this a particularly fascinating moment to travel to the island. Through study of Cuba’s geography, history, politics, and cultural production, students will discover what makes this Caribbean island so unique. The program is centered in the city of Havana, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, and will also include travel to other cultural patrimony sites. 

No Spanish language skills required! All excursions and lectures will be given in English. 

Applications for this program are due on March 20. For more information, please contact me directly at or call 703-993-2155.

Ms. Denise Elles-Mdahuar 
Program Officer
George Mason University
Center for Global Education
Johnson Center, Room 235
4400 University Drive, MS 2B8
Fairfax, VA 22030
voice 703-993-2155 
fax 703-993-2153

Monday, February 23, 2015

University of Alabama Creates Cuba Center

UA establishes new research center in Cuba

The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Center for Cuba Collaboration and Scholarship at the University on Feb. 6. The new research center will build on the activities of the Alabama-Cuba Initiative, providing educational opportunities in Cuba for UA students 
and faculty.
The establishment of the Center comes at a historical time as the United States and Cuban governments work toward normalization of relationships between the two countries.
“For students this is a transformational experience. It is hard to see things in the same way once you step into the shoes of a Cuban student or teacher,“ said Bob Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Science. “Over the years I have taken six groups of students to work on collaborative book projects with Cuban artists and writers. Working sometimes in challenging situations, Cuban artists have adopted our Alabama students and shown them a world far apart from what a tourist may see. These experiences have beautifully matured 
my students.”
The Center provides resources for supporting University projects and expanding collaborations between the University and Cuban institutions. It will be led by two co-directors: 
professor of Spanish Michael Schnepf, who has spent every spring in Cuba for a number of years directing the study abroad program, and professor of library and information sciences Steve Miller, who has been involved in the Cuba Initiative’s activities.
The Center will have an advisory board of faculty members and administrators. It will be a resource for faculty who wish to conduct research in Cuba and for undergraduate and graduate students who wish to study in Cuba.
“This new center allows us to dive deeper into educational opportunities that are authorized under our educational travel license from the U.S. Department of Treasury,” Miller said. “The study of Cuba is indeed a growing research field, one for which we are prepared with our already established ties with our Cuban 
educational counterparts.”
More than 45 disciplines and departments, 85 faculty members and 75 graduate and undergraduate students have participated. 
As a result, the University is known in Cuba for its extensive and longstanding educational activities there.
Miller said they hope having the Center will help facilitate trips to the United States by Cubans for educational purposes because it has been one of the hardest things to do. The main obstacles are affordability and getting permission to travel abroad. The hope is that in the future Cuban undergraduates and graduates could come to the University to obtain degrees.
“I wish every student would seek out study abroad opportunities,“ Miller said. “So here we have a country just 1,000 miles away from our shores where our students can enter into an entirely different and rich culture. The same would be true of Cuban students 
coming here.”
Olin said he encourages faculty and students to consider working in Cuba.

“The University of Alabama is, I believe, the most respected university by Cubans because of a steady level of work there and the clear message that we are in this together,” Olin said. “We faculty and students come together with our Cuban friends in the middle. We learn as much from Cubans and they learn from us. It’s a 
great partnership.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yacht Tour of Western Cuba


Cuba cruise tour on the yacht Panorama

(TRAVPR.COM) USA - February 19th, 2015 - It has never been easier to go back in time to a place so rooted in culture and history. Now, USA Citizens and all may circumnavigate western Cuba during 8 days aboard the 177ft, S/C Panorama motorsailer yacht.
The adventure tour company, Explorations, has recently announced the sailings and rates for the 2016 cruise tours. The People-to-People Cuba tour program allows you to step back in time to a country that been closed to most United States residents for half a century. The itinerary explores the western part of the island nation, which is famous for its culture, music, warm people, and art with daily tours while sailing from Havana to Cienfuegos.
Even though Cuba is only 90 miles from Key West, Florida, for many in the USA the island has remained mysterious. Closed to most travel by US Citizens for years, the island is an enigma in the Western Hemisphere. New regulations by the US Government effective January 16, 2015, make it easier than in many years for USA passport holders to visit and tour Cuba. There is no longer a reason to “sneak” to the island.
US tour operators with the proper US License can offer tours to Cuba under US Government’s sanctioned People-To-People cultural exchange programs. The program was started in 1999 and later banned from 2003 - 2011. The new 2015 regulations relaxed even more restrictions, such as you can legally bring back $100 worth of the famed Cuban Cigars to the USA! All that is needed is a valid passport good for 6 months after return date and a Visa from the Cuban Government. The tour package includes securing the Cuban Visa and supplying the appropriate People-to-People travel license and letter of authorization.
The S/C Panorama is a 3 masted Motorsailer which can accommodate up to 49 passengers in 25 cabins. The "Panorama" was launched in 1993 and has been renovated in 2008. In 2014, the Upper Deck cabins and Lounge, as well as the Main Deck cabin en-suite bathrooms and have been refitted. This state of the art motorsailer has performed several Atlantic Ocean crossings and has sailed from the Seychelles to Monte Carlo and from the Black Sea to Tunis and offers the highest standard of accommodation and comfort safety.
The Panorama's Cuba Cruise package includes: People-to-People interaction and meaningful exchanges with locals, Small-ship ambiance, Up close and personal cruising to unique ports, All outside cabins, Meals onboard and at local restaurants, A salsa lesson or two, Touring in Old Havana with its historic architecture, Guanahacabibes National Park with its archeological sites, Cayo Largo's mangroves and salt pans, the well-preserved Spanish colonial city of Trinidad, Cienfuegos with it’s cluster of Neoclassical structures, Mandatory Cuban medical insurance, Cuban visa, Round-trip airfare from Miami to Cuba, and no packing & unpacking to change hotels.
More information about the S/C Panorama Cuba Cruise and another Cuba tours can be found on Explorations' website of Founded in 1992, Explorations, Inc., offers educational adventures of discovery in Latin America, introducing discerning travelers to indigenous cultures and the natural world. Explorations’ staff are knowledgeable, sincere, and reliable.
- See more at:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Art Exhibit and Sale

  CUBA SOJOURN, an east-west fusion of contemporary Cuban art, is currently exhibiting over 80 original paintings at the prestigious Studio on Gulf and Pine, Anna Maria Island, Florida (near Sarasota).

The exhibit features some of Cuba’s outstanding artists on an international level as well as young, emerging artists with impressive talent yet to be discovered.  The exhibit closes March 1st.  Gallery schedule is: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 5 pm.
Oscar face If you cannot visit the gallery in person please take a moment to view a sampling of the exhibition in this PDF presentation:
You can order and purchase these and other paintings by the same artists.  Prices range from $75 to $5,000 with many paintings available for around $500.  All the paintings in this slide show are gallery-framed or stretched.

The Friendship Association, sponsor of this exhibit, is a registered, non-profit charity. All proceeds go to supporting the participating artists, and to our projects with the artists and ceramicists in Baracoa, Cuba.

If you are interested in purchasing works from this slideshow, or other works by artists in the exhibit, please contact Soledad at 904 806 1400 or email

This art is only available for a limited time.  Once the show is over, the remaining art will be returned to Cuba. If you are in the Sarasota area, make a point of visiting the Studio on Gulf and Pine. There is no substitute for viewing the CUBA SOJOURN in person!  Thank you!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

CIEE Faculty Development Seminar

New Summer Seminar - An Insider's Look at Cuba

06/10/2015 - 06/20/2015
Dear colleagues,

We're excited to announce that we're now offering a CIEE International Faculty Development Seminar (IFDS) in Havana this summer! As relations improve between the United States and Cuba, now's the time to explore this rapidly changing island nation. Go beyond the worn-out clichés and get to know the Havana that more than 2 million Cubans call home. 

Join us for "Contemporary Cuban Transformations: Social Inequalities and Social Policy" ( and:
. Explore the fascinating complexities of life in Cuba and the effects of reform on Havana's people
. Delve into current work by Cuban academics in a range of disciplines
. Meet Cuban colleagues and establish lasting relationships for future research collaborations between U.S. and Cuban institutions

Here's your chance to get a firsthand look at life in Havana, far from what tourists see. Join us this summer, then write your own story of Cuba! Get the details now, and feel free to email ( or call us at 1-888-628-9225 for more information. 

We look forward to hearing from you, 

Ashley Bamman
Marketing Manager