Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cuban carrier launches Jamaica service

Aug 28, 2013
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica has welcomed the decision of the Havana-based Aerogaviota airlines to introduce a three weekly service between Cuba and Jamaica.
"We take pride in welcoming this group partnership," said minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Water and Housing Dr Morais, adding that the partnership provides options for the travelling public.
Aerogaviota had been operating chartered flights to Jamaica for the past three years, but will now introduce a scheduled three weekly flights between the two countries.
Outgoing Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica Yuri Gala Lopez described Monday’s inaugural flight under the new schedule as the start of a new phase in linking the two countries.
"The launch will facilitate the flow of passengers between both countries. In a way this will also help the multi-destination component in our bilateral relationship. I think it will be an additional tool in our joint effort to not only maintain the dynamic and very close relationships that we have, but to take it to another level," he added.
On travel agency said that the new flight would allow for passengers to acquire cheaper airfares since there would no longer have to book connecting flights.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Texas Latino theater director travels to Cuba and discovers how local artists ‘speak’ from the stage

By Alain Castillo
Despite equipment challenges and political oppression, Cuban theatre artists are producing great work and showing their solid commitment to the craft by staging productions using the most basic of equipment and shining an even brighter spotlight on themselves and their plays by criticizing their own society, says David Lozano, theatre director for the Cara Mia Theatre Company in Dallas, Texas after a recent trip to Cuba with 34 other theatre professionals as members of a US delegation.
Members of Estudio Teatral Santa Clara, Cuba and Cara Mia Theatre.
Members of Estudio Teatral Santa Clara, Cuba and Cara Mia Theatre.
“This was an important trip to open up relationships because of minimal contacts,” said Lozano.
Organized by American composer Sage Lewis and coordinated by the Theatre Communications Group, the trip, US-Cuba Exploratorium, took place March 15-22.
Lozano said that the delegation traveled to research and document Cuban theatre practices and to explore possibilities for future collaborations.
According to the Theatre Communications Group’s website, “Cuba boasts one of the most vibrant theatre communities in Latin America, despite its history of political, economic, and cultural challenge, as well as distancing from the United States and other countries.”
The theatre professionals spoke with different Cuban artists and theatre companies from Santa Clara, Cumanayagua, Cienfuegos and Havana.
They visited a variety of Cuban theatre communities that included puppetry, children’s theatre, dance, LGBT theatre and performance art, as well as, with companies such as Estudio Teatral, Danza del Alma, Danza Abierta, Teatro de la Luna and Argos Teatro.
Lozano said he gained insight into many things.
“The [Cuban] artists benefit from the communist government because they are guaranteed a salary and a job if they graduate from their colleges and choose this work,” said Lozano, noting that their salary is very small.
Lozano said that despite their low pay, most Cuban artists are passionate about their work.
“In general, their work is extraordinary and they show extreme commitment to what they do,” he said.
In contrast, Lozano, a theatre actor himself, said that aspiring theatre actors in the U.S., though they have a diverse set of schools they can attend, opportunities to travel and have access to books, music and visual arts, they aren’t always so committed.
Because of costs, such as traveling to rehearsals and performances, American artists can easily spend more on their craft than any money they may make which can lead to abandoning acting altogether, Lozano said.
Lozano said Cuban artists are more advanced than Americans in their commitment to the craft. Cuban artists have more time to explore ideas and they convey extraordinary statements with their works, even with just the basics, despite their economic challenges.
For instance, Lozano recalled artists who wore clothes from their own home closets and had only a dining table and pieces of wood to create an imagery of a boat in water.
Lozano attributed the Cubans’ “high intensity” to the love of the craft and their personal reflections of current political and social struggles on the island.
Lozano also felt that artists in Cuba produce more productions with substance because they spend more time on their works and have fewer distractions than some US artists, who may view theatre as just a hobby.
“In the US, we live comfortably and take our problems for granted,” he said, noting that some American theatre directors do create productions that critique modern political and social issues.
“In general, we don’t have the same social problems like they do.”
Even so, modern Cuban theatre is focusing on the gradual changes happening to society, as one director told the delegation. The director told the group that he and his company were working on a play concerning the island’s past, present and future, explicitly and implicitly criticizing the government.
“The Cuban artists are able to criticize their society in a way that makes you wonder if they are actually criticizing the government,” Lozano said.
“In fact, if they are implicitly criticizing their government, they’re being artful about it. They are able to do it so well.”
Current Cara Mia Theatre actress Frida Espinosa Muller, a member since 2005, traveled with the delegation and said she felt at home.
“The people there are very warm and they received us with open arms,” she said in Spanish.
She agreed that despite their economic challenges, they still strive for a great performance.
“They have economic difficulties to raise their quality of art, but they do it anyway.”
Alain Castillo is a freelance contributor to Latina Lista based in Dallas, Texas.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Backpack Around Cuba

From getting around, to accommodation, to food, here's all the Cuba advice you need

Written by Vicky Philpott
Cuba is a land with vibrant streetlife, crazy bars, baffling politics, colourful architecture and brilliant locals. This all adds up to be a huge draw for anyone looking for an adventure in the Caribbean. It’s easy to backpack in Cuba – everyone’s willing to help, it’s cheap and there’s a lot to see.
If you’re thinking of backpacking around Cuba, make sure you read this quick guide. Attempting to understand the lay of the land when you’re out there, combined with the Caribbean heat and a few too many daiquiris, can really make life difficult.

Getting around Cuba

I spent a week in Havana, three nights in Playa Ancon, two in Trinidad and two in Cienfuegos when I visited Cuba. It was very easy to get around via the xxx bus system, but you need to book your place on the bus at least 24 hours before you want to leave. The bus picks up and drops off at all the main hotels, and a few other key points around the cities if you’re staying at the casa particulars like I did – just be there 30 minutes before your allotted time.
On our first leg – from Havana to Playa Ancon – the bus picked us up at 8am from the Parque Central Hotel in central Havana. We were told the trip would be five hours, but it ended up clocking in at seven. I didn’t mind, the rolling scenery as we went was incredible. Who knew Cuba was so lush?  After an hour we stopped for breakfast at a motorway shack and there was another 20-minute stop in Cienfuegos too. The trip cost 35CUC (£23) each.
When it came to our Trinidad jaunt a few days later we took the local tourist bus from Playa Ancon to Trinidad. It took around 30 minutes and cost 1CUC (60p). This was actually for a return journey, which we never used.
The National
From Trinidad we took another xxx bus at 8:30am to make the four hours to the Cienfuegos peninsula. We stopped at another motorway ‘service station’/roadside shack along the way and I had the freshest pina colada I’d ever tasted in my life – they even gave me the Havana Club bottle to add my own. The trip cost 15CUC (£10) and the pina colada 2CUC.
It was another early start to get our bus back to Havana from Cienfuegos. The three hours completed our round trip through northern Cuba.
I’d definitely recommend getting out of Havana for a few days and seeing some more of the country. Not only is it good to get some fresh air, it also makes you appreciate incredible Havana all the more when you head back. All the buses were air conditioned, the stops were regular enough and the staff super friendly.

Best accommodation in Cuba 

The best way to save money backpacking around Cuba is to stay in the casa particulars (private homes). Locals rent out their spare rooms to passing travellers to make a few extra CUCs. It might sound a little weird at first, and unfortunately we only cottoned onto how great they were in our last few days. Most will charge between 25-30CUC (£17) per night for the room, whether there are one or two of you. The facilities change a lot depending on your location and the individual casa.
Playa Ancon Beach
I stayed at a Casa Oshun in Cienfuegos with my boyfriend. We had a room out the back with our own private entrance and a bathroom. Every morning we were served an epic breakfast and there was even a beach at the bottom of the garden. In Trinidad we stayed at La Dona and again, we had a wonderfully comfortable room with a bathroom, breakfast and the hosts were lovely. We were right in the centre. In Havana the room was a bit poky and hot, but the shower was powerful and we were five minutes’ walk from the main street of Obispo.
For the other nights we stayed at budget and mid price hotels. From my experience the cheap hotels were skanky and the expensive ones were very, very expensive. I’d recommend to anyone to stay in the casas over these.

Food in Cuba

The standard fare in Cuba revolves around rice, black beans, fish or pulled pork. It was delicious and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I wrote a (very!) detailed article on the food in Cuba on my blog Walk around the streets and you’ll find cakes, breads and plenty of tourist and local bars vying for your dollar. I didn’t have a bad meal in Cuba, and neither should you. A good full meal will set you back about £6 and for the same price you can make the most of the menus of the day, which includes a drink, dessert and a main. Check out this lobster I got on a deal at one of the tourist restaurants on Obispo.  
It was only towards the end of my trip that I realised why the queues were snaked at the pizza and chip stalls in the streets: they were crazily cheap. For the equivalent of £1.20 you could get a delicious cheese and tomato pizza, and a side portion of chips. Not the healthiest, but show me a backpacker who is.
My hot tips would have to include the pulled pork at The Nacional (10CUC/£6), the mixed brochettes on The Inglaterra’s roof garden in Havana (10CUC/£6), and the whole menu at El Tranvia in Cienfuegos.
Inglaterra rooftop

Drinking in Cuba

Rum, rum and more rum, and the occasional Cristal beer; this pretty much sums up my drinking in Cuba. Cocktails were 4CUC (£2.65) and were heavy on the Havana Club. I drank more daiquiris over those two weeks than I have in my whole life. The sugar in the Mojitos kept me wired all night and the whole island is obsessed with their national brand Havana Club, which is kept at a super low price. A litre bottle in the shops was around 8CUC (£5).
The obsession with rum is not a tourist fallacy. By day you’d see people chilling on the beach with a bottle of Havana Club from the early hours and walking around Havana in the afternoon you could pull up to the bars – my personal favourite was Bar Sylvia – and order a rum. No mixer though: you’re in Cuba now. These bars charged just 1CUC (60p) for a hefty shot of the good stuff.
The beer was usually around 1.50CUC (£1) a can and the most I paid for a cocktail was 8CUC (£5). Water costs around the same as the rum, and I can’t actually remember drinking one straight up soft drink the whole time I was there.
Woman in Cuba


As for sightseeing, check out the 10 Coolest Things to Do in Cuba for some hot tips.

Money in Cuba 

The banks in Cuba are a nightmare – sometimes they don’t have any money in them, others won’t accept your cards and there are very few dotted around. Combine this with the fact that they don’t accept American credit cards (silly me!) and you could find yourself in a few sticky situations. Make sure you always have enough money on you to cover yourself, and locate the ATMs on your first day. 
Backpacking is currently off limits legally for Americans.  Current OFAC rules require us to go in groups with highly structured programs.
However, if the President authorized a general license for all non-tourist purposeful travel, it will be totally possible.  J McA

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elizabeth Ricci: 

Trips offer a special way to 

connect with Cuba

Aug. 19, 2013 6:17 PM   |  
Sisters Across the Straits travelers gather for a group photo in front of the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana's Revolution Square.
Sisters Across the Straits travelers gather for a group photo in front of the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana's Revolution Square. / League of Women Voters of Florida
Elizabeth Ricci
Cuba, long-forbidden to most American travelers, is now easily available to those who wish to experience its history, culture and changing demographics — and Tallahaseeans are missing out.
The League of Women Voters of Florida conducts Sisters Across the Straits delegation visits to this island nation through an official license from the U.S. government, and this spring I traveled with them to experience Cuba first-hand. Since the league began conducting these trips in 2011, 225 people have taken part. Only nine, however, have been from Tallahassee.
We spent a week meeting and exchanging ideas with Cuban scholars, environmentalists, artists, musicians, community organizers and authors.
We talked with women who said their first priority was to protect their homeland.
We learned about Cuba's dual currency, saw elderly amputee and child beggars and visited a dilapidated first-grade classroom. We went to a self-sustaining biosphere, met highly educated women, saw Havana and Historic Trinidad and enjoyed fine music, art and cuisine.
These were once-in-a-lifetime experiences, most of which were positive.
There is still, however, much to learn and a strong anti-American sentiment.
A woman in Havana realized we were from the U.S. and told her dog to bite my mother, a fellow delegate from Tallahassee. The editor of the Cuban newspaper La Mujer described Cuban-Americans in Miami as “a cancer.”
Because the perception of so many Cubans is that Miami represents the entire state, trip leader and former state Rep. Annie Betancourt insists that delegates wear badges listing not only their names, but also the Florida cities from which they hail.
The delegates, though, were not the only ones to learn from this people-to-people experience. For example, many of the women with whom we met erroneously believed that lifting the U.S.-Cuba embargo was solely up to the U.S. president rather than Congress.
With a particular focus on education and strengthening ties with Cuban women’s groups, the league’s trips to Cuba offer a unique perspective and are an excellent and affordable way to see this once-forbidden country. The League's Sisters Across the Straits trips offer travelers the opportunity to learn about Cuba's struggle and how Florida's families and businesses might benefit as the relationship between our two countries changes.
I strongly encourage all Tallahasseeans (including men — don’t be thrown off by the “Sisters” name!) to take advantage of this unique opportunity and travel with LWVF to Cuba. Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The deadline to register for the October trip is Aug. 30. Visit for more information.
Elizabeth Ricci was a Sisters Across the Straits delegate in May. She is a managing partner of Rambana & Ricci, P.A., immigration attorneys in Tallahassee. Contact her

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cuba Study Tours Unveiled by Authentic Cuba Travel for School Year 2014

As students enter a new school year and many North American schools, colleges, and universities plan student programming for the year, Authentic Cuba Travel unveils Cuba Study Tours for students and educators alike.
TORONTO, ON, August 14, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- As students enter a new school year and many North American schools, colleges, and universities plan student programming for the year, Authentic Cuba Travel unveils Cuba Study Tours at for students and educators alike. To kick off the Cuba student tours for the new school year, educators have an opportunity to explore Cuba with a free pre-departure familiarization tours, or Cuba Explorer Tours, prior to taking their students on the Cuba school trips. Travel resources are also available to help educational professionals plan and coordinate the Cuba tours for their schools and students all in effort to bring the most authentic educational experience to the students.
A growing number of students are choosing to forgo the typical spring break vacations and instead opting to participate in alternative spring breaks that are educational, cultural, and even offers an opportunity to be civically engaged and do well. As such, Authentic Cuba Travel offers Spring Break Cuba Tours for 2014 that presents a life changing educational experience like none other for an authentic immersion in Cuban culture, the opportunity to learn about historical and political influences on Cuba over the years, and the perfect backdrop to indulge in the natural beauty and landscape of the largest Caribbean island. The eight-day Cuba student trips offer a culturally rich and dynamic itinerary with a guided and fully escorted tour that includes volunteer work, peer-to-peer interaction with Cuban students, visits to various cultural sites, and even water activities to enjoy Cuba's beautiful beaches.
As a compliment to the Spring Break Cuba Trips, students and educational professionals alike also have the option of participating in a two-week Spanish immersion program at the University of Havana. What better way to accelerate learning the Spanish language than to do so in a classroom setting in Cuba while also learning about the history, culture, and richness of the Cuban people. Truly an experience of a lifetime, the student tours are as authentic as can get with the experience to travel Cuba like a local and live amongst the people for two weeks. In addition to the daily Spanish classes at the University, the itinerary includes escorted walking tours through Havana, visits to cultural and art museums, an opportunity to experience the uniqueness of Cuban music and cuisine, and even salsa dancing with Cubans.
Cuba remains a big mystery and has been largely unchartered territory over the past few decades. The Cuba study trips are a unique opportunity for students to gain worldly perspective, expand their horizons, understand culture and history, and even be inspired and optimistic about their future. The experience and reputation that Authentic Cuba Travels has earned over the years of providing guided tours to Cuba makes it possible for students to get the most competitive and affordable Cuba tour prices on the market. More importantly, the tours are safe and are fully escorted 24/7 from the moment students land in Cuba until the time they depart.
Since space is limited for the Cuba education tours, educators should begin planning and coordinating their tours now that the school year is underway. The familiarization tours are a perfect opportunity for educators to become acquainted with the Cuba tours prior to bringing their student groups and are being offered complimentary to select educators for a limited time only.
Furthermore, educators earn Educator Loyalty Points (ELP) for each student that travels as part of the tour, and the points ultimately add up to join any Cuba tours for free. Additional resources offered to educators include a free custom website for your school trip to Cuba to provide the students and their parents a wealth of information and resources in preparation for the tour. Fundraising ideas are also suggested to help students fund the cost of the tour, and because we understand parent's concerns while their kids are traveling, updates are offered to parents every 48 hours while the students are in Cuba.
The main Spring Break Cuba Education Tour is from April 13-20, 2014, and alternative dates are also available. Due to demand, it is highly advised that Cuba study travel is booked as soon as possible since spaces are limited per tour. Space is also limited for educators who want to take advantage of the free familiarization tour and must express interest as early as possible. Once the school or university has approved the Cuba Study Tours for their students, the agents at Authentic Cuba Travel works closely with the educators to plan and coordinate every detail of the tour.
Spaces for each tour are limited, and reservations are being accepted now. For more information and to book, visit or call (877) 280-2054 in North America or (647) 351-8191 worldwide.
Bella Travel Group Ltd. (Authentic Cuba Travel/ Hello Cuba Travel) is a full service travel agency based in Toronto, Canada that organizes cultural, educational and adventure tours for schools, NGOs, business and community groups.
Even though each year nearly 2 million tourists travel to Cuba, they hardly have the chance to get to know the authentic Cuba that lies beyond the confines of all-inclusive full-packed tourist resorts. Once back home, those travelers realize they have hardly "traveled" to Cuba. It might have been a nice and low cost package vacation from the cold weather, but they do not know much about Cuba's culture and its people.
Authentic Cuba Travel votes for a different kind of tourism for those travelers who demand more from their vacations. With over 40 fully escorted Cuba tours announced for 2014, ranging from educational and cultural to arts and architecture and festivals and events, Authentic Cuba Travel captures the Cuban identity that defines the island as a unique Caribbean nation.

Read more:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Authentic Cuba Travel Announces Amazing Cultural, Educational Cuba Tours for December 2013

Regarded as the leading authority and provider of the best collection of escorted licensed tours to the beautiful island of Cuba, Authentic Cuba Travel releases a full slate of December tours with limited space available per tour.
The December Cuba tours range from seven to eleven days in length and offers matchless opportunities to experience Cuba like never before. The tours go beyond typical sightseeing tours to offer North American travelers an exceptional opportunity to travel like a local and explore the culture, history, and natural beauty of Cuba.
With eleven different tours to Cuba in December, the opportunities to experience Cuba are endless and all Cuba tours are customizable to meet the needs of private groups, organizations and educational institutions.
From art and film buffs to jazz lovers and culture enthusiasts to educators and even architects and legal professionals, there is a tour option that matches traveler's needs whether it's for cultural, professional, or educational purposes.
Due to new categories of legal travel to Cuba recently announced by President Obama in 2011, now is the perfect opportunity to get the experience of a lifetime to explore an island that has largely been untouched by the outside world.
North American film industry professionals have a unique opportunity to experience Cuba and indulge in the country's cinematographic movement with a seven-day tour to the Havana International Film Festival from December 7-14, 2013. From the first film festival held in 1979 to now, hundreds of thousands of directors, producers, screenwriters, art directors, film editors, and actors descend upon Havana, Cuba for an opportunity to revel in the burgeoning international film industry.
Authentic Cuba Travel offers the only seven-day escorted tour specifically for the film industry and includes screenings, industry events and networking opportunities, a visit to Cuba's International Film School, lunch and discussions with renowned Cuban artists, a cultural tour of Cuba, and even a boat ride through one of Cuba's underground rivers.
Cuba Legal Tours are now licensable for North American judges, lawyers, legal professionals and law professors as a result of a U.S. policy that now makes it possible to travel to Cuba to conduct professional research.
The tour is from December 15-22, 2013 and includes people to people encounters to explore Cuba's legal system with visits and meetings to legal organizations, law firms, and lawyers unions and also includes cultural visits to heritage sites, a jazz festival, and even to watch an authentic Cuban baseball game.
For ten dynamic and culturally empowering days, the Cuba Architecture Travel "Seven Historical Cities" is a fully escorted tour for architecture professionals with an itinerary that includes an exploration of finely conserved Spanish architecture. This tour is also an opportunity to interact with and learn from architecture faculty from the University of Havana and the University of Santiago de Cuba as well as various architecture industry professionals.
Other escorted tour being offered in the month of December for an authentic experience of Cuba and from a local's perspective is during the 29th International Jazz Festival of Havana from December 15-23. This tour is a one of kind opportunity for musicians, producers, and other music industry professionals to experience the international jazz community will also absorbing Cuban culture and heritage.
Authentic Cuba Travel is also offering seven different seven-day tours from December 27, 2013 to January 3, 2014.
The Cuba Education Tour V and Cuba Education Tour VI, in collaboration with Cuba's Teachers Union, the University of Havana, and the University of Santiago de Cuba, offers educators, historians, anthropologists, sociologists and scholars a historical opportunity to witness the education, architecture, culture, and history of the Cuban people and their African, Spanish & Caribbean roots.
Both study tours offers a rich educational and cultural experience, but the difference between both is that Tour V travels to Havana City and Santiago de Cuba while Tour VI travels to Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, Cuba.
The Cuba Architecture tour is an opportunity for architects, urban planners, landscape designers, architecture professors, and other architecture related professionals to grow professionally, expand their architectural acumen, and explore the splendor of Spanish architectural beauty.
Indulge in the beauty of Cuba's artistic landscape and get exclusive access to Cuba's premier art institutions and Cuban masters studios with the Cuba Art Tour open to art industry professionals and educators.
The 4th edition of Authentic Cuba Travel's Cuba Photography Tour is an opportunity to explore Cuba's picturesque landscape, visit important institutions, and learn about the fusion of photography, culture, and art.
The Jewish Heritage Trip explores the life of Jews in Cuba and visits Havana's largest synagogues and other cultural sights.
From Cuban cuisine to its music, sports, and natural beauty, the Family Discover Tour is the ultimate way to take in Cuban heritage, culture, and arts while also learning about the rich mix of Aboriginal, African, Spanish, French, and Chinese cultures.
There is no other way to uniquely experience the richness, vibrancy, and landscape of Cuba other than with the December tours offered by Authentic Cuba Travel. These tours are educational and explorative and are guided and fully escorted from the moment travelers land in Cuba until their departure.
The tours also go beyond typical tourist destinations for an opportunity to really explore the layout of the land from the perspective of the Cubans.
Spaces for each tour are limited, and reservations are being accepted now. For more information and to book, visit or call (877) 280-2054 in North America or (647) 351-8191 worldwide.
Bella Travel Group Ltd. (Authentic Cuba Travel / Hello Cuba Travel) is a full service travel agency based in Toronto, Canada that organizes cultural, educational and adventure tours for schools, NGOs, business and community groups.
Even though each year nearly 2 million tourists travel to Cuba, they hardly have the chance to get to know the authentic Cuba that lies beyond the confines of all-inclusive full-packed tourist resorts. Once back home, those travelers realize they have hardly "traveled" to Cuba. It might have been a nice and low cost package vacation from the cold weather, but they do not know much about Cuba's culture and its people.
Authentic Cuba Travel votes for a different kind of tourism for those travelers who demand more from their vacations. With over 40 fully escorted Cuba tours announced for 2014, ranging from educational and cultural to arts and architecture and festivals and events, Authentic Cuba Travel captures the Cuban identity that defines the island as a unique Caribbean nation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Statistics on American Travel to Cuba

Travelers to Cuba: a legion of easily recognizable passengers at Miami International Airport

08 / 08 / 2013
Despite an embargo which has now lasted more than fifty years, Miami became the city which reported the greatest number of flights to Cuba this summer.

A recent study on Cuba-bound US flights revealed that, in the course of 30 days of monitoring (from June 17 to July 17), more flights left for the island from Miami than from such major Canadian cities as Toronto and Montreal. The data represents a sample of a study currently being conducted by The Havana Consulting Group, to be completed by year’s end.

In recent years, those two Canadian cities figured at the top of Cuba’s tourism market, accounting for large volumes of tourists who visit Havana and other popular destinations around the island every year (1.1 million visitors in 2012).

When, following Fidel Castro’s revolution of 1959, Cuba broke all ties with the United States – its main trade partner until that point – the country lost the attendant benefits of these relations, from the testing of new US-made automobiles to the anticipated launching of novel products by Procter & Gamble.

Flights to Cuba were among the many services, products and offers that disappeared following the abrupt end of all diplomatic and financial relations between the two countries.

Today, more than fifty years after this political falling-out, Miami has once again become the most important source of Cuba-bound flights around the world.

More Destinations and Airlines

A total of 332 flights with seven different destinations in Cuba were registered during the study’s first month of monitoring. The most popular destination was Havana (reporting 230 flights, or 69.28 percent of Cuba-bound traffic). It was followed by Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin and Santa Clara, reporting 29, 28, 22 and 15 flights, respectively.

Santiago de Cuba and Manzanillo (with four flights each) were the destinations which reported the least number of flights.

Below is a breakdown of Cuba-bound US flights over the period studied:

Habana     230  69.28%
Camaguey  29  8.73%
Santiago de Cuba  4  1.20%
Holguin   22  6.63%
Manzanillo 4  1.20%
Cienfuegos  28  8.43%
Santa Clara  15  4.52%

Total  332  100.00%

The flights were offered by six different airlines, which employ planes with capacity for 150 passengers. Skyking reported the greatest number of flights (146). It was followed by World Atlantic (82) and American Airlines (54). The airlines with the least traffic between June and July were Sun Country Airlines, American Eagle and Miami Air.

1 Skyking     146  43.98%

2 Sun Country Airlines     29  8.73%

3  World Atlantic  82  24.70%

4 American Airlines 54  16.27%

5  Miami Air  2  0.60%

6  American Eagle   19  5.72%

Total  332  100.00%   

These market trends stem from policies which Barack Obama’s administration has been implementing since 2008, when he lifted travel restrictions which had limited the number of trips to the island by Cuban-Americans to a single trip every three years. As a result of the lifting of these restrictions, 573,968 people travelled to Cuba from the United States in 2012, making the United country Cuba’s second largest source of tourism that year.

The US Cuba tourism market has shown significant growth in terms of the number of Cuban-American and non-Cuban visitors to Cuba.

A total of 475,936 Cuban-Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012. If the rate at which US residents are traveling to Cuba keeps up, the figure could exceed that of 520,000 visitors this year.

People-to-People Exchanges

Trips organized as part of people-to-people exchanges, reinstated by the Obama administration in 2010, has led to an increase in visits by US citizens who are not of Cuban origin. Last year alone, Cuba received 98,050 such visitors, and the number is expected to exceed that of 107,000 in 2013.

Even though such trips aren’t organized with expressly “touristic” ends, they do spell considerable profits for all parties involved, so much for the travel agencies as for the Cuban government. The most expensive packages in the market are those sold to English-speaking travelers. For example, the price for a 12-day package ranges from US $ 6 to 8,000 per passenger.

The most significant development in this connection is that the increase in US tourism has compensated for the drop in European tourism over the last six years. The five main sources of Cuba-bound tourism in Europe continue to show a drop in visitors, reporting a decrease of 181,237 tourists from 2006 to 2011.

Cuba’s domestic market is also experiencing changes these days. In recent years, the country has witnessed a notable increase in domestic tourism within Cuba’s tourism network, and it is not uncommon to see Cuban émigrés enjoying a stay at a hotel in Varadero, Guardacalada and luxury keys in Villa Clara and Ciego de Avila next to their relatives on the island.

More Charter Companies

If US flights to Cuba have clearly been on the rise of late, the same may be said of agencies licensed to offer charter flights to the island. This year, the number of charter companies authorized to operate by the Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) went up to 31, from 12 licensed to operate in 2011.

Cuba’s reformed migratory law has also contributed to the market demands which skyrocketed following the lifting of US travel restrictions. This combination of liberalizing measures implemented by both governments has had directly led to an increase in the number of agencies licensed to fly to the island.

In 2013, the number of agencies operating in the United States licensed to sell tickets on Cuba-bound flights rose to 328, from the 68 which were operative in 2011.

A Multi-Million Dollar Business

The study also revealed that, in the period analyzed, travel agencies took in US $23,764,500 in profits from air ticket sales alone. This means daily profits of US $792,150, which could spell earnings of $289,134,750 a year for all companies operating in the market.

These figures do not include profits earned by these companies for passport services, tourist packages or overweight luggage fees.

Agencies aren’t the only ones making good profits. The growth of the market also implies a juicy business for Cuba. The study includes a questionnaire with 31 queries about trips to Cuba, remittances and travel expenses during trips to the island. The survey revealed that travelers to Cuba spend an average of $ 3,500 dollars in cash to cover expenses on the island.

If we consider that Cuba receives some 1,660 visitors a day, this means profits of some US $6,027,750 a day for the Cuban government, for a total of 2.2 billion a year (provided trends do not change).


These figures have been very well received by Havana. It is not surprising that, during a recent visit to Miami, two officials from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington made know that some other aspects related to Cuba’s economic reforms may be forthcoming.

During an address aimed at a group of Cuban émigrés who support the normalization of US-Cuba relations, Consul General Llanio Gonzalez Perez referred to the creation of new laws aimed at extending Cuba’s economic reform process. One of these would be a new foreign investment law, which will allegedly allow Cuban émigrés to invest in the island.

The fact of the matter is the Cuban government has no other alternative. The lack of liquidity shown by Cuba’s economy was even one of the issues debated at the last session of the Cuban National Assembly (though the matter wasn’t directly mentioned in the meeting’s official reports).

In addition, Cuba is denied access to international financial mechanisms such as the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank; has seen its oil prospecting efforts in Cuban waters end in a veritable fiasco; faces the decline of the sugar industry and the profound crisis of Venezuela’s economy, which is already witnessing shortages of essential consumer products.

Should Cuban émigrés be permitted to invest in Cuba, the new legislation will face the hurdle of the US embargo, which forbids US citizens and residents from taking money to the island. The Cuban government, however, appears to have decided to reestablish the ties broken 50 years ago, and the dividends secured from tourism and remittances afford a push in this direction.

Source: Havana

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Original article here! 

Puerto Rican business group planning Cuba trip

08 / 09 / 2013
Nearly two decades after its last attempt to connect with the Cuban market, the Puerto Rico Manufacturers’ Association (PRMA) is preparing to send a delegation to Cuba in September.

Puerto Ricans are subject to U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

The focus of the trip will be on economic issues, and it may include meetings with university economists, government officials, state enterprise executives — possibly in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector — small entrepreneurs, and European diplomats.

“It’s about understanding the changes going on in the Cuban economy,” said Phil Peters, the Washington consultant and Cuba expert who is putting together the trip and provides his people-to-people travel license.

The trip comes after a PRMA conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aug. 2 titled “Cuba: Opportunities for Today and Tomorrow.” Presenters included Peters, Cuba News Editor Larry Luxner, Cuba Standard Editor Johannes Werner, Jay Brickman of Crowley Marine, and José R. Perales of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

PRMA’s exploration of the Cuban market is part of a state legislature-mandated effort to energize Puerto Rico’s manufacturing-based economy, which shrunk slightly in 2012 and is expected to stagnate this year.

Because there are no direct flights from Puerto Rico to Cuba, the group may have to travel via Panama.

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Original article here! 

10 August 2013

Anglophones, rejoice: Cuba’s first English-language bookstore, cafe and literary salon opened in Havana on Friday, offering islanders and tourists alike a unique space to converse, thumb through magazines and buy or borrow tomes in the language of Shakespeare.
The brainchild of a longtime U.S. expat, Cuba Libro launched with just 300 books on offer, about what you’d expect to find in the lobby of an average U.S. bed & breakfast. Next to what’s available elsewhere in English in Cuba, however, it might as well be the Library of Congress.

“I know how hard it is to get English-language sources here,” said New York City native Conner Gorry, 43, a journalist living in Cuba since 2002. “So I started cooking this idea.”

Cuba Libro is a play on “libro,” the Spanish word for “book,” and “Cuba libre,” the rum-cola cocktail that, legend has it, was invented in 1900 to celebrate the island’s independence from Spain.

The concept was hatched two years ago when a friend called Gorry to say she had a sack of about 35 books she didn’t know what do with. More donations have come in since.

Customers read at the English-language bookstore, cafe and literary salon "Cuba Libro" in Havana, Cuba, on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Cuba Libro operates on food-service and used-book-sales licenses made possible by President Raul Castro?s economic and social reforms.  -  AP

Locally produced English-language fare includes the occasional translated Cuban novel, two weekly newspapers full of the bland official-speak of state media and a smattering of tourist magazines. Beyond that, it’s mostly books such as translations of the writings of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and pro-government works denouncing the United States.

One state bookshop offered a few dog-eared texts that pushed the definition of random: “Diving Physiology in Plain English,” a volume published by the Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society, and “Woe Unto You, Lawyers!” a first-edition critique of the legal profession from 1939 that, judging by a sticker inside, once belonged to the Columbia University Law Library.

Gorry said Cuba Libro is not in the business of offering anything that could be considered “counterrevolutionary.” But Cuba Libro’s offerings do include views not commonly found on an island where the government controls nearly all media.

For starters there’s Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto’s, “Dancing With Cuba,” a nuanced memoir of her experiences in Cuba, warts and all, as a ballet instructor in the 1970s.

Along with back issues of The New Yorker and Rolling Stone, there’s a summer 2010 edition of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, dedicated to Cuban ally Venezuela. It’s generally sympathetic to the late President Hugo Chavez but also includes an essay by critic Teodoro Petkoff calling Chavez’s government “an authoritarian, autocratic and militaristic regime.”

You’ll never hear that on Cuba’s nightly state TV news broadcast.

“I hope (the store) flourishes,” said Carlos Menendez, a 77-year-old retired economist who dropped in for a coffee and was delighted to find “Freefall” by Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

“Freefall” argues for more government regulation of the U.S. economy, but even a left-leaning prescription for capitalism is a novelty in this Communist-run country where the concept of the free market is anathema.

“It is increasing in Cuba, the possibility to have different alternatives,” Menendez said, seated on Cuba Libro’s shady patio under a towering almond tree.

He was referring to President Raul Castro’s economic and social reforms, which have allowed hundreds of thousands of islanders to legally open or go to work for private small businesses in recent years.

Cuba Libro operates on food-service and used-book-sales licenses made possible by the reforms, and functions with Gorry’s help as a kind of unofficial cooperative, or group-owned private enterprise, with five Cubans.

Washington’s economic embargo bars U.S. citizens from conducting financial transactions with the Cuban government, and Gorry said she was careful to avoid anything that would run afoul of laws back home.

“I’ve had to tread extremely carefully, everything above-board and legal, because I’m an American, I’m a North American, I am beholden to U.S. laws,” she said. “And so I’m not in agreement with those laws, but I abide by them.”

Cubans tend to be well-educated, and millions attend Havana’s annual Book Festival each February and snap up Spanish-language volumes for pennies.

At the same time Cubans are increasingly eager to learn English for careers such as computing or medicine, or as a ticket to a relatively high-paying job in the tourism industry.

Cuba Libro is already planning English classes taught by native speakers, and those who can’t afford to buy books will be able to borrow them in a lending-library format.

Meanwhile staffers are reaching out to diplomats and other foreigners to build the store’s stock.

“Getting donations is going to be another interesting piece of it, because importing books here is very difficult,” Gorry said.

Her litmus test is simply that books be good literature, and she’s trying to keep dime-store mysteries to a minimum. Still, there’s a small whodunit section with the likes of Sue Grafton’s “Q is for Quarry.”

It will be up to future donors to supply A through P, and R through Z.

Address: Calle 24, corner Calle 19, Vedado
Phone: 830-5205
Summer hours: Mon-Sat 10am-8pm

Conner writes:  It is not a paladar but we do have THE best iced tea, iced coffee, 100% pure juice (mango, pina, guayaba, melon), and great espresso. 

Hola, from Cuba Libro, the island’s first English-language bookstore!

On August 7th, Cuba’s first English-language bookstore and café, Cuba
Libro opened at the corner of Calle 24 and Calle 19 in Vedado. With a
beautiful (always shady) garden, this ‘café literario’ is bringing the
bookstore/coffeehouse concept to the island and offering an innovative
alternative to Cubans and foreign visitors alike.

In addition to featuring monthly shows by talented local artists ­
through October we showcase over a dozen captivating images by
photographer Alain Gutiérrez ­ Cuba Libro offers many services
including water bottle refills; postcards, stamps, and mailing; a
cultural calendar; expert travel tips; and the highest quality coffee,
iced tea and 100% fresh fruit juices.

This is an ethically-responsible business that offers a lending
library for those who can’t afford books, a collective employment
model where the entire team benefits, and an environmentally-friendly
approach. Like Cuba itself, Cuba Libro strives for equity and a
healthy, culturally-rich atmosphere.

We invite you to come see what makes Cuba Libro different. We attach
our simple flyer.

The Cuba Libro Team

Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-8pm.
Telephone: 830 5205