Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chamber of Commerce in Florida Organizes P2P Trip

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011


Manatee chamber offers cultural trip to Cuba

Interest high in the island country

 - Special to the Herald

BRADENTON -- This spring, a group of local travelers will be walking in the footsteps of Hemmingway during the day and practicing their salsa moves at night.
They will be part of a nine-day trip starting April 26 to Cuba offered by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. The trip, with space for 30 people, costs $3,299 per person.
Carey Miller, office administrator at the chamber and trip coordinator, said the tour was picked because of the interest in traveling to the island since the relaxation of the travel and trade restrictions earlier this year.

It is part of the Travel with the Chamber program started about 1½ years ago as a chamber fundraiser, Miller said, with a trip to China.
Because that trip was so popular -- more than 100 people went -- the chamber decided to offer trips every six months.
“There was an interest to go to Cuba,” Miller said.
The trip starts with a short flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba’s capital, where travelers will be given a quick orientation before being given a guided tour of the city markets, churches and museums
“With the U.S. government opening up travel to Cuba with its People-to-People Program, this will be more of a cultural trip,” said Jacki Dezelski, chamber vice president of East County and community development.
“I think this will be one of our more popular trips because travel to Cuba has been so restrictive in the past.”
A highlight of the trip is traveling to the four United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Heritage Sites of Old Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Sugar Mill Valley, Miller said.
Cuba is not only difficult to get to as a destination, but people feel more comfortable traveling with a group,” she said.
Travel for U.S. citizens to Cuba has become easier since President Barack Obama authorized people-to-people exchanges at the beginning of this year.
“Bolstering ties to Cuba is very import to the Tampa Bay area,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who has been in the forefront of the fight to open the island nation for travelers.
“There are dramatic changes happening on the island of Cuba,” Castor said. “People can now buy and sell property and cars, and the trend (toward a more open economy) will continue.”
The congresswoman said Port Manatee and the Port of Tampa could see more business with agricultural product shipments.
Steve Tyndal, senior director trade development and special projects for Port Manatee, said new port director Carlos Buqueras arrives in early January and has expressed an interest in the Cuban issue.
“Once he gets here, I’m sure we’ll explore all options,” Tyndal said.
Castor said the area also will benefit now that Tampa International Airport is designated as one of the airports permitted to offer flights to the island.
“With the relaxation of travel restrictions to Cuba for families,” she said, “the opportunity is great for Tampa International Airport to build on the Gateway concept.”
Three charter airlines began offering four flights a week from Tampa to Cuba in September, said Janet Zink, director of communications for Tampa International Airport.
Tampa is one of only two airports in the country that fly to two different cities in Cuba, Zink said. Three land in Havana, and one goes to Holquin.
“The flights are selling very well,” she said.
“By the end of the year about 9,000 people will have taken advantage of these flights.”
Zink said she believes the flights have been so popular because of pent up demand.
“Previously, area Cuban Americans didn’t have that easy connection,” she said. “They would have had to travel to Miami, which precluded them from traveling to Cuba.”
For more information about the Manatee Chamber of Commerce trip to Cuba visit the chamber web site at: or call Miller at 941-745-1877 or send an email to

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