Recent media attention about growing pains in Cuba’s tourism sector misses the nuance about the real costs of traveling to Cuba and the important impact that travel is having on Cubans themselves.
For travelers, lower costs are making the island nation more appealing – plus the ways to create great experiences and make memories are increasing.
Friendly Plant Travel, a U.S.-based tour company with a long operating history in Cuba, is capitalizing on recent trends. In order to stimulate travel demand against American tourist projections that haven’t quite materialized as expected, the Cuban government greatly reduced the price of rooms in their state run hotels for the 2017 travel season. Friendly Planet uses these rooms on some of their small group people-to-people Cuba tours, and they are passing the savings on to their travelers.
Two tours with these latest price reductions include:
Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet, says that traveling to Cuba is becoming more convenient and more accessible with each passing day. But the country is still not overrun with tourists, so that alluring draw of authentic travel experiences that many have sought in Cuba for years is still there. With dozens of new direct flights from the U.S. to the island nation, and these reductions in hotel costs, “travel times are shorter and costs are lower,” Goldman says.
For example, one of Friendly Planet’s newest tours spends four nights at a “casa particular”, a private property owned by one of Cuba’s newly minted cuentapropistas (sole proprietors). The bed and breakfast provides a much more authentic and culturally immersive way to stay in Havana, and the cost savings over traditional hotels is passed on to the traveler. And since the property is privately owned, travelers who stay there are providing incredibly valuable revenue streams to individual Cubans. It’s a win-win all around.
Last year, regular commercial flights resumed between many major cities in the U.S. and Cuba. The expected increase in the number of travelers has prompted new hotel construction, exciting new restaurants and a refurbishment of large parts of Old Havana.
What’s more interesting for travelers is the variety of ways to experience Cuba.
For example, cruising to Cuba has become popular as an affordable way to see much of the island in a short amount of time. Celestyal Cruises, used by Friendly Planet on their Cruise Cuba tour, just received 5 Top 2017 Cruise Critic Cruiser’s Choice awards including #1 in Best for Value and Shore Excursions, and a top 10 finish for Best Overall cruise line. Travelers can now book an IB inside cabin without pay a single supplement fee.
All of Friendly Planet’s tours are compliant with U.S. government regulations and include ample opportunity for cultural immersion, like meeting real Cubans where they live, work and play.
Depending on the tour, an itinerary might include a walking tour of Old Havana, a rum or cigar factory tour, a visit to Earnest Hemingway’s plantation, and many other people-to-people opportunities such as visiting a local dance studio or school, an artists’ cooperative, or a community garden.
7 days from $3299
What have your clients been telling you about Cuba? “Feedback from people who have been to Cuba with us has been amazing. Well over 95% rate the experience as either very good or excellent. People love the country, the people and especially the energy and enthusiasm they exhibit toward US visitors. They love the creativity, even the entrepreneurial spirit of the people. It isn’t at all what people expect, and when travelers visit, they are pleasantly surprised and delighted by what they find and experience.” – Peggy Goldman