President Obama’s announcement in January of “purposeful travel” has been implemented with excruciating slowness and caution. Less than sixty license applications have been granted. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has not provided straight forward ways for the travel industry to become involved. The most ambitious tour operators, Abercrombie and Kent and Globus, were forced to withdraw their programs because of unnecessarily narrow interpretation of regulations, presumably a response to political pressure.
The companies mistakenly believed that they could simply partner with an organization that had a people to people license and then function in a normal business model with travel agents selling their packages. The language of their promotional materials, and its public interpretation by local agents and travel writers unfortunately sounded more touristic than their actual programs.
This allowed hard line Cuban American Representatives and Senators who despise all travel to successfully pressure the White House, the State Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). These same members are trying legislatively to roll back all of the President’s reforms, including even his earlier and more far-reaching opening for Cuban Americans.
Nevertheless, people to people travel is going forward under the auspices of not for profit organizations listed below. The first such trip, sponsored by Insight
, has received much favorable coverage. http://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.com/2011/09/ellen-creager-reflections-after-insight.html Cuba
Is There An Opportunity to Sell
People to People (P2P) licensees cannot pay conventional commissions to travel agents, but may be able to offer 10% referral fees.
(See report on fees from National Geographic Expeditions in the blog Travel Agent http://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.com/2011/09/national-geographic-offers-commissions.html )
A referral fee can definitely be offered by Travel Service Providers (TSP), the 250 companies licensed to sell air tickets, accommodations and programs, or by any third country provider.
What business opportunity does this offer to a brick and mortar or home based agent?
1) You can refer clients to a P2P licensee that is offering open enrollment trips.
2) You can assemble an affinity group among your clients and work with a P2P
licensee to select or create an appropriate program. (One example of how that
is done http://insightcuba.com/custom-groups/ )
3) You can assist a group that qualifies for a general license to arrange their
program through a Travel Service Provider.
a) Work with a college or university in your community to create a for-credit mini course that takes students and teachers to
during an intersession, spring break or summer vacation. (If you have or obtain status as a part time staff member or adjunct faculty, it is also possible to make an advance preparatory trip.) Cuba
b) Work with any kind or level of religious organization that wants to send its
for a program of religiously oriented activities Cuba
What OFAC says you cannot do
“OFAC only licenses People-to-People Groups that certify that all participants will have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in
. Authorized activities by People-to-People Groups are not “tourist activities” under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, which prohibits OFAC from licensing travel-related transactions for tourist activities…. Cuba
A People-to-People Group using another entity to make its travel arrangements may only use an OFAC-authorized Travel Service Provider* or an entity outside the
United States that is not subject to jurisdiction. Travel agents and tour operators in the United States that do not hold an OFAC Travel Service Provider authorization cannot organize trips, collect funds, make travel arrangements, or engage in any other Cuba travel-related transactions for People-to-People Groups or any other licensed travelers.” U.S.
Guidelines for licenses
Open Enrollment Trips
The following organizations have received people to people licenses and are offering trips that are available to anyone who wishes to participate in a serious group encounter with
and its people. Cuba
National Geographic Expeditions
Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel)
The Center for the Study of Cuban Culture + Economy
Witness for Peace
Application pending approval
Center for Cuban Studies
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Travel Service Providers