The specter of Cuban tourism that those in the Costa Rican industry feared is now a reality.
Theoretically the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is supposed to keep tight restrictions on U.S. citizens who visit Cuba.
In the past, there were specific licenses for mostly non-profit groups with the emphasis being on education and citizen contact. On the books there are 12 legal reasons why U.S. citizens can visit Cuba.
But since U.S. President Barack Obama announced his effort to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, there has been a surge in Cuban trips.
That became clear when the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was forced to return to his city from a family vacation in Cuba because of political difficulties over the actions of police officers.
Emanuel served earlier as chief of staff to Obama.
In the past, Cuban tours were highly restricted. Some who participated complained that they were not even allowed to visit the country’s fabled beaches because that was not considered educational by the U.S. government and tour providers.
Since 2011 there are hundreds of options for U.S. citizens who wish to visit Cuba. One tour provider, U.S.A. Cuba Tours and Travel, says this:
“Cuba travel is all about wandering colonial streets, exploring ‘modern’ architecture, discovering an emerging, strange art scene. But most importantly is about getting to know the Cuban people. Visiting Cuba is also a good excuse to sip mojitos, smoke Cuban cigars, dancing salsa and partaking in Cuba’s sensual night scene.”
The Obama administration has reinstated people-to-people licenses so now dozens of individuals, organizations, educational institutions and tour companies have been granted the authorization to run people-to-people trips to Cuba, the travel firm says.
The opening of U.S. travel to Cuba always has been a fear in Costa Rica. The island is a short distance from mainland United States, and has fabled beaches.
Thousands of U.S. citizens visited the Communist island before Obama loosened prohibitions, so the island has to be considered a factor by Costa Rican tourism officials and promoters.