The race to Cuba is on. And if you plan on visiting this long-embargoed Caribbean nation next fall or winter, you better clinch your reservation now, nail down your price, buy trip cancellation insurance to protect your investment over the long haul, and be prepared to meet your new neighbours from Chicago, Dallas, New Jersey, and maybe even Miami.
This past week, U.S. and Cuban government bureaucrats signed a deal virtually opening the skies to commercial flights between the countries—big time. As in 110 flights a day from a number of U.S. airports to Cuba—twenty to Havana alone, and ten to each of Cuba’s nine other major airports.
From the agreement date (February 16), U.S. airlines were given 15 days to submit requests for rights to fly and would then have to negotiate landing rights/space deals with Cuban officials. Cuba’s airports are in great need of improvement and expansion, and this new agreement will likely push the agenda.
So far, every major (and even lesser) airline has jumped into the ring, determined to get their share of the Cuban business, which is expected to take off as early as this fall. One of the giants, United, intends to fly out of several of its hubs, including Chicago, Houston, and Washington D.C. Others will likely do the same, thus tapping into the entire U.S. market.
Up to now, American residents have been able to fly to Cuba only on chartered craft, mostly out of Miami. And they have required a long list of U.S. government permissions to make the trip.
Under the new agreement, “tourism” per se won’t be permitted, but flyers will have to check off at least one of twelve trip-purpose check boxes, which are vague enough to deter very few tourists; (e.g., attending workshops, educational, athletic or religious activities, and people-to-people travel). Just another formality to ignore.
On March 21, President Obama will visit Cuba to take some political victory laps over his achievement to loosen up the U.S. trade embargo put in place over 50 years ago. The television coverage of the visit will be wall to wall and will certainly stoke up even more interest among Americans in visiting the “forbidden” island just 100 miles off Florida’s shore.
What that means for you is that prices will be going up. Experts who study travel trends continue to show that when Americans enter any market in a big way, they bring higher prices along with them.
The fact that last year well over a million Canadians visited Cuba for leisure purposes compared to only 160,000 Americans (which incidentally was almost double the figure four or five years earlier) shows how much flex there is for up-bound pricing as of this forthcoming fall or winter, when the advance guard of the American airdrop is expected to begin.
So if Cuba was in your travel plans, make your plans early, but get your pricing and accommodation details confirmed. And make doubly sure you take out trip cancellation insurance to protect your investment in case of sudden changes or possible disruptions—which there well might be. You don’t want to be in the position of negotiating “unavoidable alterations” after you have paid your money.
And if the thought of having to jostle for space where you previously had plenty of it, there are alternatives. The Caribbean doesn’t end with Cuba.
For more information on travel insurance and travel insurance products, visit Ingle International’s product page here.