Obama May Ease Cuba Travel Rules; Former Leader in Sector Prepares

Aug 16, 2010, 16:06 ET from Cross-Cultural Solutions

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y., Aug. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Recent, widespread reports on the likelihood of an ease on travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba have made Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), the former leading provider of legal, people-to-people travel to Cuba for Americans, envision the future of their previously halted programs.

Along with many other recent reports, the Miami Herald stated, "The Obama administration will soon ease some restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba and other sanctions following Havana's promise to free political prisoners, according to growing but unconfirmed reports," on August 7. In response to these new possibilities, CCS has indicated that it would enthusiastically re-open its people-to-people cultural exchange program, Insight Cuba, if permission was granted from the U.S. government.  

CCS' program, Insight Cuba, began in 2000 and offered participants the unique opportunity to gain insight into Cuban life through people-to-people cultural exchange programming. The program supported almost 2,500 U.S. citizens to travel legally to Cuba in the second half of 2003 alone. That same year, stronger travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba were imposed.

Through the Insight Cuba program, CCS was the largest provider of licensed travel between the U.S. and Cuba since 1962. CCS was granted a special educational license from the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Assets Control (OFAC) to legally bring Americans to Cuba for its people-to-people program. If restrictions are eased and the opportunity to operate becomes available, CCS has indicated that it will seek permission to re-open its landmark program.

"Our programs gave Americans the rare opportunity to visit Cuba legally, and experience the culture in a very meaningful and authentic manner. Participants weren't just touring the country, they were there as guests of the Cuban people – sharing meals together, educating one another, and gaining real perspective on the culture and the country," CCS Founder and Executive Director Steve Rosenthal said. "Insight Cuba helped to foster international friendships and promote a greater understanding of global issues, which is an integral part of CCS' vision."

Insight Cuba operated in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and other Cuban provinces. With the guidance and expertise of local professionals, participants were immersed in Cuban culture, visiting schools, historic sites, hospitals, farms, and interacting with local community groups, women's groups, artists, musicians, religious leaders and more. TIME magazine reported, "CCS's Insight Programs offer behind-the-scenes, personalized explorations and feature access to places tourists usually don't see..."

CCS offered several different types of programs including the Perspective program – which offered cultural immersion in Havana, Pinar del Rio and other provinces; the Cuba Music program – which focused on people-to-people exchange through the music and dance of the Cuban culture; and the Jazz program – which offered an in-depth view of Cuban Jazz and its impact on Jazz in the U.S. and around the world. These programs ranged in duration from 4 days to 2 weeks.

Just like CCS' volunteer programs, Insight Cuba aimed to share perspectives, foster cultural understanding, and increase awareness of global issues. For more information on Insight Cuba, visit http://www.insightcuba.org.

CCS (http://www.crossculturalsolutions.org) is an independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1995, and a recognized leader in the field of international volunteering. Through CCS, approximately 3,500 participants traveled through their Insight Cuba program, and over 25,000 have volunteered abroad with CCS in 12 countries around the world. CCS has no political or religious affiliations.

SOURCE Cross-Cultural Solutions