Alexandria, VA, August 14, 2015 –The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) was privileged to be a part of today's historic flag raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba. ASTA was represented by President & CEO Zane Kerby, and Senior Vice President, Government & Industry Affairs Eben Peck.
"ASTA is honored to have been witness to this milestone event in the new course in U.S. relations with Cuba," said Kerby. "We have long believed that allowing Americans to travel across the globe without restriction enables them to act as ambassadors of freedom, and we pledge to do all we can in conjunction with the Administration, the Congress and key allies such as Engage Cuba to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government."
Highlights of Kerby and Peck's visit included a flag-raising ceremony and reception at the official U.S. residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, U.S. Charge d'Affaires; a meeting with representatives of Accor Hotels on current and future business opportunities in the Cuba market for ASTA members, and a meeting with Havana-based ASTA member Joe Prem of Cuba Select Travel.
In December, President Obama announced an agreement between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries, including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba. On Jan. 15, the U.S. Treasury Department issued regulations reflecting the new policy under which travel service providers may arrange travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens without the need for a government license – but only if the travel conforms with restrictions in current law. General tourism remains prohibited under the Cuba embargo enshrined in U.S. law.
As a founding member of the Engage Cuba coalition, ASTA is supporting legislation pending in Congress, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (S.299/H.R. 664), introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and in the House by Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), that would fully repeal restrictions on travel by American citizens and legal residents to Cuba in their entirety.
ASTA has long supported a full repeal of the travel ban to Cuba. In addition to supporting the principle that Americans be allowed to travel free of government interference, lifting the travel ban will also bring follow-on economic benefits to Cuba's neighbors and the travel industry that serves them by sparking demand for new passenger routes, tour operations, and travel agent services. All told, ASTA estimates at least two million additional Americans would visit Cuba by 2017 if there were to be a full lifting of travel restrictions in 2015.
For more on this and other ASTA advocacy initiatives, members are encouraged to visit the ASTA Advocacy Action Center. ASTA also has scheduled a Cuba Destination Workshop on Aug. 30 during the ASTA Global Convention that includes a presentation by Jeffrey Braunger, chief, Licensing Division, U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.
ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, it is the leading global advocate for travel agents, the travel industry and the traveling public. ASTA’s history of travel industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information, visit ASTA.org.
ASTA’s sister association, The National Association of Career Travel Agents, represents a professional community of independent travel agents ready to assist the traveling public.