Thursday, January 7, 2021

Zoom discussion of travel


Cuba Travel Specialists

Participant zoom on travel to Cuba under Biden-Harris

Wednesday, January 13, 2 - 3:30 p.m. ET

View it here  

The Covid prompted use of zoom has introduced a vehicle for reaching people all over the country. However the webinar format that works well to inform large groups limits most people to sharing their experience and views via chat or Q & A.

We are organizing a smaller zoom discussion, largely for travel practitioners, that offers a more participatory approach to share how people are thinking about what it will mean for them, their business or university and Cuba when the Biden-Harris Administration reopens travel.

There is nothing new from the Biden transition but, as you should have seen in our end of year mini-newsletter, more noise from opponents to restoring Obama's opening, most notably an editorial in the Miami Herald.    (The newsletter is here in case it went to your spam )

This how the zoom was set up:

1) Limit participation to 100 persons (more than 100 can register, but entry will only be for the first 100 who sign on for the event; others will be able to watch on Facebook)

2) 20 to 30 participants can offer a two to three minute question/presentation or comment on what has already been said or asked.  (one hour "plenary")

3) Assign everyone to a breakout room  (15 - 30 minutes,10 groups of 10)

4) A summary report from each breakout to the whole group  (in writing afterwards see below)

--John McAuliff <>

Program and youtube link for the December 17 webinar is here.

Break Out Reports

Travel Advisers / Tour Operators (Benita Lubic)

There was an excellent Rapport among the tour operators, many veteran agents who have been bringing groups to Cuba since the late 1990s. They are all enthusiastic about returning to Cuba as soon as possible, as soon as the doors are open, the hotels are available and testing restrictions and coverage are streamlined. We discussed the currency change which will take effect in June but may also be delayed, and the opening of other airports other than Havana. Having Christopher Baker on board as well as other experienced Cuba agents. We had a good discussion.


To make tax deductible contributions to support this and future zoom programs, click here.

New articles

"Tourists trickle back to Havana despite tough COVID-19 protocols" by Marc Frank, Reuters, click here

"Tampa-Cuba ties forged under Obama frayed under Trump. Now, it’s Biden’s turn." by Paul Guzzo, click here

Very positive TV interview with Joe Garcia, former member of Congress, former director of Cuban American National Foundation click here

"Pompeo Returns Cuba to Terrorism Sponsor List, Constraining Biden’s Plans" from NY Times click here; statement by Cuba Study Group click here

Chat from zoom

4:05:09 From Mark Ginsburg : I can't see the breakout room button. 14:05:41 From CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO : I’m on a Mac and cannot see the button either 14:05:50 From Christopher Cloonan : I do not see those buttons 14:06:35 From Jack Kern to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : You are correct. Breakout rooms currently visible only to host. 14:10:39 From Yves Chabal : How many people signed the petition? 14:11:27 From Edward Russo : I would like to speak. 14:11:39 From Zita Arocha : My question is whether we know who with the Biden administration is in charge of future CUba policy. I heard that Bill Richardson might be working on this. Would appreciate any info about this. 14:12:05 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Am I the only Cuban on this call? 14:12:15 From Evan Elkowitz : I’d love to say something ... if there is time 14:12:16 From Zita Arocha : I am Cuban as well. 14:12:21 From Maria Isabel Marques : NO! I’m Cuban! 14:12:22 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hola Zita 14:12:32 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hola Maria Isabel 14:12:48 From Evan Elkowitz : I’m a Cuban wanna be lol 😂 aka “Jewban” 14:13:20 From Maria Isabel Marques : Saludos cubanas! 14:13:25 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hola Evan 14:13:37 From Yves Chabal : My wife (also on the call), Magaly Spector, is Cuban 14:14:01 From Joe Moreno : Greetings to all from a warm Santiago de Cuba 14:14:02 From Evan Elkowitz : Hola Sheyla and everyone Xx 14:14:21 From Gay Myers : Linda Elzer, I’m Caribbean editor of Trvavel Weekly. What’s the name of your agency, whee are you located. I’d love to talk to you. 14:15:03 From Marla Whitesman : I should have earned a cuban passport by now....I've been a fixture there since 2000! 14:15:13 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : @Joe Moreno I’m from Santiago de Cuba 14:17:55 From Joe Moreno : Born and raised in Santiago, worked as a translator/professor for a few years and now work as a freelance guide and manager of Out of the Box Tours Santiago. Looking forward to seeing new projects directed to the Eastern area of Cuba where we are mostly operating. 14:18:28 From Stephen Wilkinson : HI Everyone, I am Steve Wilkinson, a Brit (for my sins!) and for those who don't know me I am an academic who works on Cuba. I have been travelling to and studying the island and its revolution since 1986. I have led scores of tours to Cuba, and a lot of American tours. Recently I a take my students there every year and I have been working recently for an Australian tour operator Academy Travel. I edit an academic Journal, the Internatinal Journal of Cuban Studies which is now open access. 14:19:42 From Stephen Wilkinson : We would welcome contributions from people who might wish to contribute in their experiences of travel and leading travel to Cuba. Contact me at 14:20:33 From Michael Reese : Hi All, 14:20:49 From Jack Kern to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : Given the difficulty in finding folks over multiple screens, you may want to allow people to unmute themselves when you recognize them. 14:23:32 From Michael Reese : HI Michael Reese here. I have taken small groups to Cuba over the past 5 years , over 30 times with groups of 14 who are interested in Visual Art, Architecture for in email 14:26:53 From Jack Kern to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : You might also announce that people should mute themselves after speaking. 14:27:20 From Evan Elkowitz : Hi... I’m Evan Elkowitz (a fashion stylist from NY). I run fashion & art tours to Cuba. I’ve done 3 tours and I’ve hosted 2 fashion shows there and a few other fashion/art cocktail parties there. My Instagram is @cubabyevan and my email is and I 14:27:31 From Linda Wiggins : Hi Linda Wiggins here, I am a travel advisor. I have many clients interested in visiting Cuba. I would like to start taking groups. My email is Please contact me. Thank you 14:27:51 From Laurie McLaughlin : How about facilities for testing now that US will requre testing upon return now... 14:28:17 From Edward Russo : You can reach me at 14:28:43 From Evan Elkowitz : I live for Cuba, the people, the culture and my tour helps to support many causes there. I also help to protect the design community from being exploited and I write a column for Start Up Cuba. 14:28:47 From Raissa Fernandez : is this because of phizer? or any of the drug companies or regulation on Cuba? 14:28:50 From Evan Elkowitz : besos, Evan 14:29:04 From CYNTHIA CARRIS ALONSO : My name is Cynthia Carris Alonso. I have been traveling from NYC to Cuba since 1992 as a photographer and journalist, covering historic news events such as the Special Period, Elian’s return, the first shipment of US farmer foods to Cuba, the Pope’s visit, President Obama’s visit, and more! I am the photographer and author of two books about Cuba: A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine, and Passage to Cuba. I consult travelers to Cuba planning their itineraries, give talks about Cuba, and lead groups traveling to Cuba. I can be reached any time at: or 917-678-8089 14:29:40 From angelica salazar : Saludos a tod@s/ Greetings all, I’ll include my intro here, as there are many of us on this call. I am Angelica Salazar, been traveling Cuba since 1996. Study abroad there. Then worked with John in 2004 on the Cuba program in FRD and WOLA/LAWG on Cuba policy outreach in 2009-2010, MEDICC, & last decade led trips, & in last 5 yrs, on island facilitating Witness for Peace’s Cuba ed programs & directing U.S. university academic programs (semester-long) with Arcadia and Brown’s CASA program. Since COVID, I am volunteering w 2 IMPORTANT new campaigns. 1.) Cuba Nobel Campaign (, to get Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, plz sign our petition— we have nearly 40K signers. AND 2.) I am on the steering committee for the newly launched coalition, the Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE)— we have a growing list of Alliance members, please join us— pushing for progressive US policy changes toward Cuba in DC w/ in new Congress & Biden team. 14:29:54 From Bob Schwartz : Hi, I’m Bob Schwartz, VP at Global Health Partners. We’re one of the largest donors of medicines and medical supplies to Cuba - over the past 25 years we’ve shipped more than $187 million worth to the Cuban Ministry of Health. If anyone is interested in collaborating with us, you can reach me at “” 14:30:47 From Maria Isabel Marques : Hi folks! I’m a Cuban American (Peter Panner!) who returned to Cuba for the first time in 1979—among the first groups of Cubans returning to the island. I’ve returned often since then. I now lead small groups to Cuba focused on arts and culture, supporting independent artist and community organizations. ( I also represent the Cuban American artist, Bobi Cespedes). My email for the travel business is 14:31:36 From Evan Elkowitz : could you write the names of the clinics you named to get the test in Habana? also do we need an appointment? 14:31:48 From Christopher Cloonan : Hello All. My name is Chris Cloonan. I have been working in Cuba for 9 years. I have a Master's in Cuban Studies. I have brought 50 or so travel groups of all types, from students to lawyers and to religious groups and all sorts of professionals. More than 40+ visits to the island. I am also a university lecturer, and writer for Startup Cuba. Feel free to contact me at 14:32:09 From Stephen Wilkinson : They started using nasal drops this weeks. not a vaccine but a way to prevent infection and improve resistance 14:32:30 From Yves Chabal to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : When will the petition be given to the Biden administration? 14:32:43 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hello again everyone, I was born and raised in Cuba. Moved to the United States 20 years ago after meeting her husband at her beloved island when she was performing with a band at the Riviera Hotel in Havana. She is a Journalist, Actress, Producer, and  Photographer with a passion for travel. Sheyla launched the tour agency to Cuba out of her desire to share her culture, music, dance, and the architecture of her homeland with others. Her agency provides travel arrangements to all Latin countries and Caribbean islands. She has several award wining short films and was recognized as a leading media personality in the Latino community in Tennessee with the award “Beacon of Light” in 2019. Sheyla was one of the few Cuban-American journalists selected to travel to Cuba with President Barack Obama in 2016 as part of the White House Press Corp. My email is should you be interested in connecting and/or travel services ;-) 14:34:51 From Gregory Miller CREST : Muchos saludos a todos, Greg Miller, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and I'm joined by two of my colleagues today, Ellen Rugh (who manages our Cuba programs) and Alix Collins, CREST Communications Manager. CREST has been working in Cuba (we are a US 501.c.3 nonprofit research and advocacy organization based in DC, and has been a leading voice on sustainable travel to Cuba since 2016). We have been one of the few US-based NGOs that has continued work in Cuba throughout the Trump administration. Our work in Cuba focuses on: 1) strengthening small-scale, household based tourism on the island; 2) mitigating the impacts of climate change on the burgeoning tourism sector in Cuba; and 3) advocating for legal US travel to Cuba. CREST supports normalization efforts ASAP for the Biden Admin and believe that cross-cultural dialogue and cross-sectoral collaboration have never been more important. 14:34:57 From angelica salazar : Hi Bob! Sheyla! Also, I want to mention, the new docu-series the “War on Cuba” produced by Belly of the Beast, a new media group (US/Cuba staff) that was started to tell Cuba’s untold stories through hard-hitting journalism. They are working on a new doc series Cuba Vs. Covid. I highly recommend you checking out there work. And incredibly important educational resource: 14:35:32 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Hi Angelica! Will check that out… thanks for sharing! 14:37:20 From Yves Chabal to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : Magaly has a question. could you please unmute us. Yves 14:40:36 From Bob Schwartz : Same here Angelica! 14:44:23 From Andrea Holbrook-Wagman : We've also heard that incoming flights from the US were causing spikes in cases..... 14:47:15 From Raissa Fernandez : is a online portal from local miami agency to send money. 14:56:13 From Evan Elkowitz : Duales is the Canadian company that you can use to send money to friends in Cuba 14:56:22 From Evan Elkowitz : they deliver the money to them 14:56:33 From Evan Elkowitz : it’s like uber money 💰 14:56:42 From Evan Elkowitz : xx 😘 14:57:39 From Cindy Truitt to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : Can you please message Rita (I think she’s offline?) to share the name or website of the food service delivery company in Havana? And also any helpful hints on using them from outside Cuba. Thanks much, Cindy Truitt 15:01:38 From Karin Eckhard : Sorry but I have another zoom call so I have to go, but this has been very informative. Thank you to everybody!!! 15:03:57 From angelica salazar : Thanks all. The ACERE (Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect, Our contact is and our letter to Biden— which we sent to some new transition “Latin America” staff— —— but would love for ALL OF YOU to JOIN US to push this new Congress and the Biden Administration 15:06:50 From Rita McNiff : Mandao is the food order service. There is an app available for both android and iPhone and you can pay from the US and send deliveries to your friends here. 15:08:14 From Christopher Cloonan : Mandao is a fantastic service. I've used it to send food to friends all over Havana 15:08:33 From Linda Wiggins : I have a call I must take. I have enjoyed this forum. Thank you 15:09:05 From Maria Isabel Marques : Does Mandao also deliver outside Havana—e.g., Camagüey? 15:11:38 From Zita Arocha : Thanks, John, for organizing this. So glad to know so many are working toward a saner policy toward Cuba. 15:11:49 From Michael Reese to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : THAKS - it was very interesting 15:14:09 From angelica salazar : All- William shared this with me. Very informative 15:14:18 From Raissa Fernandez to John McAuliff(Direct Message) : i don’t see the breakout room. 15:14:22 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : Sorry was bumped out 15:14:29 From Maria Isabel Marques : Thank you, everyone! I appreciate all the resources and info shared, and am inspired by the commitment to Cuba! 15:15:08 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : When you are in the breakout rooms it bumps you out of the main meeting 15:15:29 From Christopher Baker : Thanks, as always, John 15:16:05 From Sheyla Paz Hicks : It’s on the bottom next to the record button 15:18:05 From Rita McNiff : Thank you so much John!!! 15:18:17 From molly layman : Hi Everyone! Thankful to be part of this informative meeting and Cuba-loving community. For any Cuba travel needs, I work for a Cuba travel company called Cuba Candela. Please feel free to reach me at We specialize in curated, immersive + socially responsible travel to the island! 15:18:36 From molly layman : You can also reach ! xx 15:19:40 From molly layman : Big love for Startup Cuba!! 15:24:08 From Joe Moreno : Feel free to reach out at any time, at or WhatsApp +5353790045


  1. Hello, would anyone know of a reliable company to ship a mattress to Havana? Or would you know where to buy one? A special is needed for an elderly woman who has bedsores. She's confined because of an injured hip.

  2. Manny Kopstein here: since Day 1 in 2004 we have traveled to the island benefiting primarily rural communities with American families and their children's community service trips and for us, large-scale gifts/donations of medical supplies, sports equipment and OTC products. Would greatly enjoy collaboration with all Cuba-invested participants and thank John for providing this forum. CTAGCUBA.COM,