Last updated: 03:04 PM ET, Tue June 09 2015

Latour Adds Cuba Departures in Wake of House Vote to Block Travel

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | June 09, 2015

Latour Adds Cuba Departures in Wake of House Vote to Block Travel

Photo by David Cogswell

When the House of Representatives passed an amendment last week to re-impose restrictions on travel to Cuba that had been relaxed by President Obama’s December 2014 executive order, Isramworld’s Latin America travel division, Latour, responded by expanding its departures to Cuba.

“The management team at The Isramworld Portfolio of Brands/Latour was already in the process of evaluating the shift in demand that a lifting of any further restrictions might have on the market,” said Richard Krieger, president of Isramworld. “The House vote acted as a catalyst for us to prioritize what future demand might look like.”

Demand for Cuba continues to soar. While Obama’s announcement last December of a loosening of travel restrictions to Cuba greatly spurred demand, the threat of a congressional re-imposition of the previous restrictions did not have the reverse effect.

In the case of Cuba, which is in a class by itself in terms of travel and trade, any threat of curtailment of travel only heightens demand. The demand for Cuba is intense and shows no signs of waning.

“Year over year, demand continues to rise,” said Krieger, “so the announcement was well timed for us to consider the impact of the House vote on travel.”

While Isramworld often responds to acts of discrimination or attempts to limit the freedom of travel in its policy decisions, this decision, according to Krieger, was simply based on mathematics.

“Latour’s expansion in the market is based solely on demand,” said Krieger. “Certainly political decisions are impactful to our process, but it is client demand, first and foremost, that drives our increased presence and commitment to the Cuban travel experience.”

Latour currently has a schedule of 38 departures of its tours to Cuba through summer 2016. The programs are nine-day/eight-night itineraries.  

“But we will be adding more dates to the program because interest is so intense,” said Isramworld President Richard Krieger, “and because the Isramworld Portfolio of Brands has been committed to tourism to Cuba for more than 20 years since our first tours to the island in the mid-1990's.”

Latour currently offers three different Cuba itineraries: a general interest tour called Hello Cuba!, Shalom Cuba for a Jewish slant on the island and Cuban Pride for LGBT travelers.

Isram got its current Cuba people to people program on the market in 2013 and since that time, according to Krieger, “the interest in visiting Cuba, and meeting and interacting with the Cuban people, has soared.”

The restrictions, designed to limit travel to Cuba, only served to spur more demand.

“The past two seasons have taught us that the political climate is fluid,” said Krieger, “and as industry leaders in travel to Cuba, it is our responsibly to be ready to meet challenges created by any new travel restrictions, or the lifting thereof.”

A tightening of regulations would mean more bureaucratic headaches for tour operators who dare to navigate the prickly terrain of doing business under the U.S. embargo, but it will not discourage demand. Whatever channels are open will be filled to capacity.

The demand for Cuba far outstrips capacity, and that will be another issue to deal with further down the road.

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