Wednesday, July 13, 2016

WSJ article on growth of American travel

Growing Flow of Americans Remakes Cuba 

Despite tourism ban, influx of U.S. travelers has Cuba scrambling to realize economic hopes

Dudley Althaus

July 12, 2016 7:21 p.m. ET

HAVANA, Cuba—Though the U.S. embargo still officially bars them from hitting Cuba’s beaches as tourists, Americans are nevertheless shaking up the country’s tourism industry and communist economy as they flock to the island.

For decades, Cuba’s tourism sector catered instead to Canadians and Europeans booking inexpensive package deals in Varadero and other beach resorts. That sort of tourism generally kept foreigners isolated from most ordinary Cubans, in line with the government’s preferences.

But now that Washington has eased the economic embargo’s restrictions on what officials call “purposeful travel” to Cuba, Obama administration strategists bet the money Americans spend on bed-and-breakfasts, taxis, meals in privately owned restaurants and other services will nurture Cuba’s nascent urban middle class and accelerate political and economic change.

Cuban leaders, meanwhile, are gambling that a tourism windfall will bolster the island’s economy and ease public pressure for deeper political overhauls.

“The tourism sector is thriving,” said Emilio Morales, a former Cuban official and now president of the Havana Consulting Group in Miami. “If the revolution depends upon sustaining the economy, they have seen that this is the only thing that works.”
Tourism as such remains illegal under the U.S. embargo, but in promoting so-called purposeful travel, the Obama administration allows Americans to visit Cuba under 12 exemptions to the ban—from medical and religious missions to cultural exchanges and “people-to-people” visits.

As a result, tourism has been surging here through 18 months of improving relations between the island’s leaders and the Obama administration. More than 450,000 U.S. citizens or residents were among the 3.5 million tourists to visit the island last year, when the total number of visitors rose 17% from 2014, the Cuban government says.

Total American visitors through June grew 26% from the first half of 2015 to about 304,000, making them Cuba’s second-largest tourist contingent after Canadians, according to a preliminary tally by José Luis Perelló, dean of the University of Havana’s tourism program.

While Cuban-Americans visiting family on the island made up most of the U.S. contingent, almost 136,000 people came on other exemptions to the embargo’s travel restrictions in the past six months—a nearly 90% rise over the same period a year earlier.

An estimated 2.1 million visitors arrived on the island through June, according to Mr. Perelló’s tally, meaning growth is running far ahead of Cuban officials’ estimate of 3.8 million tourists by year’s end. The number of American visitors is expected to further increase this coming winter season, once direct commercial flights begin from U.S. cities.
Washington regulators on Thursday awarded eight U.S. airlines a total of 20 daily nonstop commercial routes between American cities and Havana. The regulators last month authorized six U.S. airlines to serve nine Cuban provincial destinations.

Despite the influx of visitors, the Cuban economy grew by just 1% through June, sharply slowing from 2015’s GDP growth, President Raúl Castro told legislators Friday, as he outlined belt-tightening measures amid cutbacks of oil imports from Venezuela and other woes. He also laid out plans to focus investments on economic areas, such as tourism, that generate foreign income.

“We will not give up the intention to continue re-establishing the international credibility of the Cuban economy,” Mr. Castro said.

Cuban officials say they will build scores of new hotels and 108,000 rooms in the next 14 years, compared with the 65,000 that exist now. Grupo de Turismo Gaviota, the Cuban armed forces’ company that owns most of the beach resort hotels, has said it would self-finance and build 50,000 of those rooms by decade’s end, all but 2,000 of them on the beach.

Outside industry experts judge those goals to be impossible to meet without significant outside investment.

While foreign hospitality companies have management contracts for many hotels—and almost all the beach resorts—there are barely two dozen joint ventures, with the Cuban government always the majority partner. Connecticut-based  Starwood  Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. signed contracts in March to manage two Havana hotels. More deals for U.S. companies are in the works, industry experts say.

Many of Havana’s existing hotel rooms are badly in need of renovation but also often booked solid. Room rates in the handful of good hotels have doubled or more in recent months, with further sharp increases expected.

“The planners never thought they would see normalization in the short or long term,” said Mr. Perelló, explaining how Cuban officials miscalculated the market in their tourism planning.

Short on options, urban visitors increasingly turn to the private bed-and-breakfasts, and shun government-run restaurants in favor of private ones, called paladares, where food and service are considered far better.

“The really big boom in Havana and other tourist cities is in bed-and-breakfasts,” said Richard Feinberg, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, whose book “Open for Business” dissects Cuba’s changing economy.

There are already nearly 50,000 rooms for rent in private homes across the island and more are being built, Mr. Morales of the Havana Consulting Group calculates. The number of paladares nationwide has exploded from 113 five years ago to more than 1,600 today, he says.

“Tourists in general, and U.S. tourists in particular, are curious to see the real Cuba, to see how Cubans live, think and organize their lives,” said Mauricio Alonso, an engineer who with his wife operates a bed-and-breakfast in their suburban Havana penthouse. “What makes the experience here unique is the contact with Cuban people, and that above all is achieved in private houses.”

Income is expected to rise along with tourism. Private lodges, restaurants and other businesses today employ more Cubans than state-owned establishments and pay them better. About a third of Cuban workers are self-employed or private business owners.

“In the next five years it’s going to be a very different country,” Mr. Morales said.

Original article has good chart

Saturday, July 9, 2016

House Speaker Torpedoes Freedom to Travel

Travel Amendment Withdrawn Due to Speaker Ryan

From Congressional Record

  The Acting CHAIR. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 47
printed in House Report 114-639.
  Mr. SANFORD. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
  The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
  The text of the amendment is as follows:

       At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the
       Sec. _.  None of the funds made available in this Act may
     be used to administer or enforce part 515 of title 31, Code
     of Federal Regulations (the Cuban Assets Control Regulations)
     or section 910(b) of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export
     Enhancement Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7209(b)) with respect to
     any travel or travel-related transaction. The limitation
     described in this section shall not apply in the case of the
     administration of a tax or tariff.

  The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 794, the gentleman
from South Carolina (Mr. Sanford) and a Member opposed each will
control 5 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from South Carolina.
  Mr. SANFORD. Mr. Chairman, I want to be clear that in just a few
moments, I am going to be withdrawing my amendment.
  Before I do so, I just want to say a couple of things because this
amendment was a very simple and straightforward amendment that did
nothing more than allow Americans to travel to Cuba, which is to say
this amendment ultimately was about American liberty.
  We just heard a long conversation about Iran, and yet, as an

[[Page H4531]]

you can travel to Iran. You could travel to Syria. You could travel to
North Korea. There is no prohibition for any other place on the globe,
except for one, and that is Cuba. And that may have made sense 50 years
  The reality of today is that it does not make sense today. And so
this has ultimately been about American liberty. It has been about the
bundle of rights that come with liberty. The Supreme Court has said
that as real as the food that we eat or the clothes that we wear or the
books that we read, the ability to choose where you come and go, where
you travel to, is an American liberty.
  So Jefferson said 200 years ago that the normal course of things was
for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield. And I think it
is very, very important wherein we run into policies that have outlived
their usefulness, that may have made sense 50 years, that don't make
sense today, that we push back against them. That is what this
amendment was about and, again, affording people the true American way,
which is to travel as they choose, not as government sees.
  Two, it is about bringing change. I signed on to the original Helms-
Burton language. The definition of insanity is continuing the same
process and expecting a different result. We have tried this approach
for 50 years. We have the longest-serving dictatorship in the world in
the form of the Castro brothers in Cuba. And it would seem to me, if it
hadn't worked in 50 years, might we not trying something different?
  It was Ronald Reagan that encouraged engagement. In fact, that has
been the policy of this country. So I don't like what goes on in Russia
or in China or in Vietnam, but we allow Americans to travel there,
believing that that personal diplomacy is part of changing those
  Finally, this is about government regulation. It is interesting that
we are at the eve of real connections, real flights going down to Cuba.
But we will have to sign affidavits. We will have to store records for
5 years. We will be subject to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in
penalties if we fill out a form wrong. And so this is also about easing
government regulation.
  So, in my closing, I would just like to say a couple of thoughts. I
want to thank Kevin Cramer, Tom Emmer, Rick Crawford, Ted Poe, Jim
McGovern, Kathy Castor, Barbara Lee, and about 130 other Members of
this House who signed on to this bill. I want to thank Senators Jeff
Flake, Jerry Moran, Mike Enzi, and others over on the Senate side.
  I want to thank the U.S. Chamber, who is going to key vote this vote
tonight, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Washington
Office of Latin America, Engage Cuba, the Farm Bureau, the Americans
for Tax Reform, and a long list of others who said that this is
something that makes sense.
  Finally, I want to say, there is real momentum. As I just mentioned,
just today U.S. transportation is outlining eight airlines that will be
able to travel to Cuba. Last night, I think there was something of a
deal struck between ag interests and the ability to export product or a
deal that will be formed in exporting product to Cuba. I think that
makes sense.
  Given the fact that the Speaker is working against this amendment, I 
see the handwriting on the wall. I think it best to withdraw, so that
is exactly what I am going to do.
  Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.
  The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman
from South Carolina.
  There was no objection.
  The Acting CHAIR. The amendment is withdrawn.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

St. Petersburg to Havana Race Revived

The St. Petersburg Yacht Club is proud to announce  The Revival of the Original St. Petersburg – Habana Race Starting – February 28, 2017 

Preliminary Schedule (Subject to Change) Feb 24- 26: Arrival of Vessels at SPYC Docks – Free dockage for boats entered. Feb 26: Registration – Competitors & Guests Reception – Historical Presentation  Feb 27: Monday Evening – Departure Celebration  Feb 28: The Start at St. Petersburg Yacht Club  March 1 & 2: Racing to Habana/Hemingway International Yacht Club, Cuba  March 3-4: Welcome Party, A Regatta from Hemingway YC to Morro Castle and Back, with Cuban Sailors being involved.        

Exploration and Enjoyment of the Island and Guided Tours March 5: Dinner Party & Awards Presentations The Habana Race Organizers will provide information about:

• The documents needed for the United States and Cuba.
• The hotel rooms for competitors and friends in Cuba and St. Petersburg.
• Flying to Cuba

For Information about the St. Pete Yacht Club explore the website at

For Accommodations in St. Petersburg: Click on “Sailing” on the home page, then click on “Regattas” and scroll down to the bottom of the page to “Hotels.”

Guest Card: To enhance your experience during this event at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, you may obtain a guest card online. Click on Sailing at top of home page, then click on SPYC Guest Card. Fill out the information and your card will be waiting for you at the front desk. To be sure that your card will be ready for you please make this request 48 hours in advance of your arrival.    

The Official Notice of Race and other information will be posted soon.

Direct Commercial Flights from US Airports to Havana and Other Cuban Cities

News from Marazul:

U.S. to HAVANA commercial flights tentatively authorized by U.S. –

still pending final authorization by Cuba




An agreement between the U.S. and Cuba was signed in February for the resumption – after more than 50 years – of regular airline flights to Cuba.

This agreement allows up to 110 regular daily round-trip flights in and out of Cuba. This includes 20 daily flights to Havana and 10 daily flights to other airports on the island.

The agreement allows unlimited charter flights to Cuba.

Subsequently, 12 U.S. airlines made requests to the U.S. Department for Transportation (DOT) to operate commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba.

On July 7, 2016, DOT tentatively authorized eight US carriers to begin scheduled service from 10 U.S. cities to Havana. Final authorization will not be issued until later this summer. 

Below are the flights tentatively authorized by DOT on July 7th to HAVANA from cities in the U.S.


To Havana

Miami: 4 daily round-trip 

Charlotte: 1 daily round-trip 


To Havana  

Los Angeles: 1 daily round-trip 


To Havana

Atlanta: 1 daily round-trip 

New York JFK: 1 daily round-trip 

Miami: 1 daily round-trip 


To Havana

Miami: 1 daily round-trip 


To Havana

Fort Lauderdale: 2 daily round-trip (1 on Saturday)

Orlando: 1 daily round-trip 

New York JFK: 1 daily round-trip 


To Havana

Fort Lauderdale: 2 daily round-trip 

Tampa: 1 two daily round-trip 


To Havana

Fort Lauderdale: 2 daily round-trip 


       To Havana

Newark: 1 daily round-trip flight (2 on Sat)

Houston Bush Intercontinental: Saturday-only service, 1 round-trip 

Each of the airlines must now seek Cuban government authority and agreement regarding exact scheduling and times for their flights. 


Previously authorized – on June 16th by DOT -  to cities in Cuba OTHER THAN HAVANA: 


To other Cuba cities

Miami to Cienfuegos   Daily    AS OF SEP 7 IF CUBA APPROVES    via A319 / 144 seats

Miami to Holguin         Daily    AS OF SEP 7 IF CUBA APPROVES    via B737-800 

Miami to Santa Clara               2 daily round-trip         via B737-800 / 160 seats

Miami to Matanzas/Varadero   2 daily round-trip         via A319 / 144 seats

Miami to Camaguey                 1 daily round-trip         via A319 / 144 seats


To other Cuba cities

Chicago (O’Hare) -Santiago   1 daily round-trip                     via A320 / 180-186 seats

Chicago O’Hare-Matanzas/Varadero 1 x week - Sa only       via A320 

Philadelphia-Camaguey          4 x week – M, W, F, Sa                       via A320

Philadelphia-Santa Clara        3 x week – Tu. Thu, Sa                        via A320

Philadelphia-Matanzas/Varadero        1 x week – Sa only      via A320


To other Cuba cities

Fort Lauderdale - Camaguey 1 daily roundtrip          via A320 / 162 seats

Fort Lauderdale- Holguin       1 daily roundtrip          via A320 / 162 seats

Fort Lauderdale – Santa Clara            1 daily roundtrip          via A320 / 162 seats


To other Cuban cities

Fort Laudedale-Camaguey  5 x week – not M,F                  via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Cayo Coco 3 x week – Tu, Th, Sa              via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Cayo Largo 1 x week - Sa                           via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Cienfuegos 2 x week – M, F                       via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Holguin      1 daily round-trip                     via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Manzanillo 3 x week – Tu, W, F                via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Santa Clara 1 daily round-trip                     via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Santiago      1 daily round-trip                     via SAAB 340B Plus / 34 seats

Fort Laudedale-Matanzas/Varadero: 4 x week – M, W, F, Su  via SAAB 340B Plus /34 seats 


To other Cuban cities

Fort Lauderdale-Matanzas/Varadero           2 daily round-trip         via 737-700 / 143 seats

Fort Lauderdale-Santa Clara                        1 daily round-trip         via 737-700 / 143 seats


To other Cuban cities

Minneapolis –Santa Clara                 1 x week -Su                via B737 / 126-162 seats

Minneapolis – Matanzas/Varadero    1 x week – Sa              via B737 / 126-162 seats         

Each of these airlines must also seek Cuban government authority and agreement regarding exact scheduling and times for their flights. 

Bob Guild

Vice President

Marazul Charters, Inc.

1 Marine Plaza, Suite 302, North Bergen, NJ 07047

800-223-5334 ext 16 / 201-319-1054 ext 16

201-319-8970 fax

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lower Cost Trip Focusing on Organic Agriculture

Organic Agriculture and Cooperatives in Cuba
November 20-29, 2016

Two decades ago Cuba was the first country to convert from industrial agriculture to organic agriculture. Today it is converting a major part of its economy to cooperatives. Learn how this island nation is striving for food sovereignty as it reorganizes its economy. Visit organic gardens and cooperatives, both urban and rural, an ecological zone, a community project. Talk with specialists in sustainable agriculture, the Cuban economy, its health system, US-Cuban relations, and more. Experience Cuban culture and the vibrancy of its people in this 10 day trip hosted by Havana’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center. Sponsored by the Center for Global Justice and Via Organica along with Organic Consumers Association.

Estimated cost of $1550 plus airfare (from either Miami or Mexico City) includes dormitory style accommodations and all meals at MLK Center, translation, guide, transportation and a full program of activities.

Application and non-refundable $100 deposit. Full payment due one month before departure. Limited scholarships are available. For applications and further information, contact

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sending Mail to Cuba

Country Conditions for Mailing — Cuba

Prohibitions (130)


Global Express Guaranteed (210)
Not Available 

Priority Mail Express International (220)
Not Available 

Priority Mail International (230) Price Group 9

Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable retail, Commercial Base, or Commercial Plus price.

Priority Mail International — Flat Rate
Flat Rate Envelopes or Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes: The maximum weight is 4 pounds. Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable retail, Commercial Base, or Commercial Plus price.

Size Limits (231.22)

Insurance (232.92)

Customs Forms Required (123)

First-Class Mail International (240Price Group 9

Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable retail price.
Weight Limit: 3.5 ozs. for letters and postcards;
Size Limits  
Customs Form Required (123)

Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable retail, Commercial Base, or Commercial Plus price.
Size Limits  
Customs Form Required (123)

Airmail M-bags (260) —
Direct Sack to One Addressee Price Group 9

Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable retail price.
Customs Form Required (123)

Customs Form Required (123)

Extra Services  
Certificate of Mailing (313)

Individual Pieces — Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable price:
Bulk Quantities — Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable price:
Registered Mail (330)

Fee: Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable price.

Return Receipt (340)

Fee: Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable price.

Restricted Delivery (350)

NOT Available for International Mail as of January 27, 2013

International Postal Money Order (371)
NOT Available

International Reply Coupons (371)

NOT Available for International Mail as of January 27, 2013

International Business Reply Service (Note:)
Fee: Refer to Notice 123Price List, for the applicable price: