Don’t plan to make Cuba your spring break destination this year, local travel agents advise.
Annette Love McCormick oversees the Omega World Travel’s Fairfax office. She admits: it’s rare to discover a new destination.
If you were to walk into a travel agency like Omega, page through a brochure on the Caribbean, you’ll notice it ignores the region’s largest island, Cuba. But those brochures may soon be updated.
"The book is being written even as we’re standing here,” Love McCormick said, referring to the quickly-changing regulations over American travel to Cuba.
As of Friday, Americans no longer need special permission to visit the island-nation so long as they qualify for one of 12 exemptions. Those including cultural exchanges, education, and family visits.
But that doesn’t mean open travel for all.
“There’s a lot of curiosity, people want to go down and they want to experience something,” Love McCormick said. “They want to be the first to get down there and enjoy everything that Cuba has to offer.”
But for those who do qualify for the new rules, such as students with an educational focus on Cuba, this marks a significant step.
“North American students often think of Cuba as an inaccessible and prohibited place,” said George Mason University Professor Charlotte Rogers.
In 2012, she brought along a group of students to Cuba for an education-based visit, but at the time that required special licensing.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to find out that Cuba’s not just about cigars, rum, and Communism, but that it has a very vibrant and active cultural life,” she said,
Love McCormick and her fellow travel agents want to tap into that vibrancy, but she warns it could take some time.
“Early 2016, realistically will probably be the first - as far as a U.S. citizen flying out of the United States into Havana and going to a beautiful resort,” she added.