ASTA Applauds Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act Amendment
Photo by David Cogswell
ASTA is urging approval of a proposed amendment to a financial services appropriations bill that would end the ban on travel to Cuba.
In a statement, ASTA President & CEO Zane Kerby said, “ASTA has long believed that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction, allowing them to act as ambassadors of freedom and American values abroad.”
The amendment—offered by U.S. Representatives Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and others—could be voted on as soon as tonight.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously approved an amendment to its version of the financial services budget bill that would lift the Cuba travel ban for one year. That amendment is, in effect, identical to the House’s amendment.
Since December 2014, the Obama administration has introduced a series of steps aimed at loosening restrictions on travel to Cuba. These included an expansion of the 12 government approved categories—family visits, professional research, humanitarian projects, cultural exchange, etc.—under which Americans can visit the island nation.
READ MORE: Can Cuba Keep Up With US Tourism?
But general tourist travel to Cuba continues to be banned by U.S. law.
“While the Administration’s recent actions on Cuba travel are a step in the right direction, it is up to Congress to do away with the ‘travel ban’ once and for all,” Kerby said in the statement.
“We applaud Representatives Sanford, Emmer, McGovern and their bipartisan coalition for their leadership on this issue and urge the House to pass their amendment and the broader Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act without delay.”
After the House and Senate pass their respective versions of the bill, a conference committee will hammer out differences between the two bills and present final legislation to the President for his signature or veto.
ASTA is calling on its members and other interested parties to contact their House members before the vote to urge approval of the amendment.
READ MORE: Cuba Plans for Hotel Boom
The association said there are two ways ASTA members can do this:
• Send an email through its legislative grassroots portal
• Make a phone call – by clicking here to find their representative
This summer could see one or more votes in Congress on lifting the Cuba travel ban, according to ASTA.
The association has said it believes eliminating the ban will bring economic benefits to Cuba's neighbors and the travel industry that serves them by triggering demand for new passenger routes, tour operations and travel agent services.
ASTA estimates that at least two million additional Americans would visit Cuba by 2018 if restrictions on travel were fully lifted this year.
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