It’s no surprise that Cuba is hot on American travelers’ minds, since a travel ban has been in place for five decades. With the demand high and the government now granting licenses for people-to-people tours, tour operators are hopping on board and offering Americans a glimpse into this “forbidden” territory.
These people-to-people tours, which are full-time cultural and educational tours (and how Beyonce and Jay-Z traveled there during their headline-grabbing visit to the country), are offered by the likes of General Tours World Traveler, which has partnered with Insight Cuba, and now Globus. The latter has joined the ranks of tour operators being granted a license by the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Pam Hoffee, v.p. of product and operations for Globus, says part of the reason the company wanted to offer tours to Cuba was the demand from past travelers interested in visiting the country. “Not having the opportunity to visit Cuba has created the demand,” she says. With Globus’ two new 9-day tours that start this summer, Undiscovered Cuba and Cuba’s Colonial Cities & Havana, travelers will have the opportunity to explore the country and meet its people so “Cubans can meet people from the States and hear our perspectives, having open discussions,” Hoffee says. On the tours, travelers will meet artists, musicians and restaurant owners who, while learning from Americans, can also benefit, selling their goods and music.
While travelers have a small amount of free time in the mornings and evenings, they’ll have a busy itinerary, as part of the full-time schedule requirement for people-to-people tours. When we asked Hoffee if travelers could pop over to the beach, she said that they can during free time, but they must attend all of the activities on the tour. As far as activities go, Hoffee says that Globus chose “activities that would be interesting to travelers and have a great impact.” An example of an activity, and one that Hoffee enjoyed herself, is a visit to the Camaguey ballet company to interact with the dancers, teachers and costume designers, as part of the Undiscovered Cuba and Cuba’s Colonial Cities & Havana tours.
While Hoffee admits that many of the activities on people-to-people tours are somewhat similar, “ours were carefully planned for Globus passengers.” Hotels included on the tours, such as the Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana and Iberostar Grand Hotel in Trinidad, were also carefully selected because they seemed like the best option for each place, and space became a concern at properties outside of Havana, Hoffee says. Another benefit of Globus’ tours is how inclusive they are, including gratuities and most meals, so little money is required, a bonus for travelers since one of the concerns people have is the lack of ability to get money once in Cuba.
Globus is seeing a higher demand from travelers than they thought would happen for the trips, Hoffee says, which run from July 2013 through February 2014. While the company’s license expires at the end of February 2014, Globus plans on starting the renewal process soon to add additional dates from March 2014 through December 2014. Rates start at $2,974 land-only pp, and travelers are required to purchase airfare through Globus roundtrip from Miami to Cuba, which starts at $496. For more information, visit globusfamilypartner.com.