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Pressure was relieved on operators of tours to Cuba when the M&T Bank extended its visa services until March 1 and will continue to accept deposits through Feb. 17.
That gives the Cuban government two months to find a new bank through which to operate its visa services.
The visa process was suspended when the M&T Bank, which handled visa services for Cuba and some other countries, stopped providing the services on Nov. 25.
M&T reportedly discontinued the service because it is not a very profitable offering, not because of any political agenda.
Although the U.S. government's 50-year economic embargo of Cuba does make the visa process much more difficult for Cuba than for most other countries, the recent disruption of services was not a result of any action by the U.S. government, which supports people to people travel in spite of the embargo.
According to Robert Drumm, president of General Tours, the U.S. State Department is "fully engaged in working out alternative financing for the activities of Cuba's consular offices in the U.S. that issues the visas."
According to Drumm, whose company General Tours offers tours of Cuba in partnership with Insight Cuba,
"This visa issue affects all travel companies offering trips to Cuba in the U.S. Our travelers had all received visas through the holiday period. Insight Cuba will continue to secure visas for all travelers who book now through Feb. 17." Drumm said. "All parties are confident that a new visa approach will be identified during this extension period. The U.S. Administration is committed to finding a solution for people-to-people travel. This is a banking issue, not a U.S. policy issue."
People to people travel was instituted in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, then cut back during the Bush administration and opened again under Obama.
Though this time the problem had nothing to do with politics, it underscores the challenges that have long limited travel of U.S. citizens to Cuba.
According to Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba, "It's just another example of how fragile legal travel to Cuba is. We always tell our travelers, go while you can."
David Cogswell is executive editor covering tours and packages, Africa and the Middle East.
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