When restrictions were relaxed, the rise in Americans traveling to the Caribbean island was well-reported. But is all that coming to an end? Peter sat down with the Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager, who broke the story on the collapse of U.S. People to People tour programs to Cuba.
Peter Greenberg: Is the door actually slamming shut now for travel from the U.S. to Cuba? Ellen, what do you hear?
Ellen Creager: I think it is. People to People trips just became legal in the beginning of 2011, so the first licenses were issued in June of 2011. The program has been going for about a year now, and thousands of people have gone on this People to People trip to Cuba. I went on the very first one last August.
A few weeks ago, I started hearing that these trips were being cancelled. Then I started calling around and found out that these licenses are only good for one year. All these organizations applied for renewal of their licenses haven’t gotten renewals, so these companies have had to cancel all their trips, lay off their staff, and stop offering people-to-people trips to Cuba.
EC: I’ve heard that there are three companies that did get renewals, but that is out of the 140 that have licenses. Some companies licenses have not yet expired, but we will see more unrenewed licenses as the year continues. By the end of 2012, it could be that, effectively, this program is over.
PG: Your report for the Detroit Free Press mentioned that the original application to get a license to operate a trip to Cuba on one of these People to People programs was about six pages long, a few months ago it went from six pages to hundreds of pages.