Cuba travel means business for local agencies

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Local travel agencies believe the United State’s decision to open Cuba to tourist travel will boost their business – both for tourist and business travel.

“Just to go, after it being closed for 50 years, I think it will gain a lot of interest,” said Russ Knight, manager at Globe Travel Services. “People are going to want to go, and I think the Cubans will be very welcoming.”

President Barack Obama also is allowing some businesses to apply for licenses in the country.

The idea was applauded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The last 50 years of our embargo against Cuba have proven that unilateral sanctions do not work,” said Myron Brilliant, senior vice president for international affairs. “Rather than encouraging Cuba to democratize, the embargo actually helped prop up the Communist regime. The chamber has been a long-standing opponent of the Cuban embargo.

Getting travel packages together will not be difficult, Knight said. He has been arranging travel packages for Americans to Cuba for years – flying them from Canadian cities.

“Canada has open relations with Cuba,” he said. “So we’ve been sending people out of Montreal. Now, of course, we will be setting it up through Miami. We could make the arrangements right now, today, but I think it will be easier to do this summer.”

While the travel embargo has been lifted, a trade embargo remains in place. Brilliant said the U.S. Chamber, which represents more than 3 million businesses, will work to remove those sanctions as well.

“Today is only one step forward,” he said. “A comprehensive review of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions is long overdue.”