Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A & K Gives Up

A&K scraps Cuba tours after reviewing new U.S. regulations

By Gay Nagle Myers
Abercrombie & Kent canceled its Cuba program for U.S. travelers after reviewing a government advisory clarifying new regulations for Cuba travel.

The advisory, issued on July 25 by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, cautioned that while some regulations have expanded, “the amended regulations still contain significant travel restrictions.”

OFAC said that licenses are granted only to “people-to-people groups that certify that all participants will have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities between the travelers and Cubans.”

A&K said it is in the process of contacting travel agents and their clients to inform them of the program’s cancellation.

A&K announced its Cuba program on July 19 and suspended it on Aug. 1 to review OFAC's clarification. A&K had planned to offer six Cuba trips this year.

The U.K.-based operator has offered non-Americans custom and group tours in Cuba for five years.


Abercrombie & Kent Cancels Cuba Program Due to New Rules

By David Cogswell
August 30, 2011 1:12 PM
In the wake of a new set of regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) July 25, Abercrombie & Kent has discontinued its Cuba program. The company is currently in the process of calling travel agents and customers to inform them of the change.
OFAC had amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations in January 2011 to expand licensing of travel to Cuba for certain educational exchange programs to promote contact with the Cuban people. A&K set up an arrangement with an OFAC-licensed foundation (the Foundation for Caribbean Studies) that sponsors and organizes educational and people-to-people travel to Cuba.
A&K put its Cuba program up for sale July 19 and sold most of its departures in a week. But on July 25, OFAC issued a Cuba Travel Advisory, intended to clarify the intent of the regulations and elaborate on the requirements for tour operators that facilitate travel to Cuba. A&K put its clients on notice that plans were suspended pending further clarification. Now A&K has decided to cancel its new Cuba program.
When the new statement was issued by OFAC on July 25, it stipulated that third-party relationships are prohibited, so there could be no commissions for travel agents.
“Once it became clear that OFAC advisory does not envision a role for travel agents, we decided to cancel our scheduled departure.” said Pamela Lassers, A&K’s director of media relations. “There was no clarity around the situation, and rather than continue to delay, we canceled because the departures were coming up soon.”


My posted comment:

It is very sad that politically motivated bureaucratic obstacles in Washington have led to A & K's cancellation rather than modification of its program.

There is nothing inconsistent with US national interest in what they were trying to achieve. In fact, visits by their high end clientele would have benefited improved understanding in both countries.

I hope they show the generosity of spirit to refer their clients to Insight Cuba http://insightcuba.com/ which has been licensed to offer programs that are not fundamentally different than A & K's offerings.

John McAuliff Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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