travel Partner & Traveler Message Center
Today, the Department of State softened the travel advisory for Cuba from Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) to Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution). This is outstanding news that shows that the Department of State is reconsidering its approach to travel to the island. Other countries with a Level 2 ranking include Denmark, France, Germany, and Spain.
At Academic Travel Abroad, we are keen watchers of US policy towards travel to Cuba. While we have always remained in full compliance with any new federal regulations, we have also stood with other organizations and Cuba experts—Center for Responsible Travel, The Nation’s Peter Kornbluh, RESPECT, and Robert Muse, Esq.—to advocate for changes to the travel advisory by grounding ourselves solidly in the facts. While we doubt that the letter CREST sent on our group’s behalf to the DOS just last week asking for a change to the travel advisory had much to do with today’s positive action, we are encouraged by this news and will continue our work to ensure that Cuba is assessed fairly and accurately. The DOS move confirms what Academic Travel Abroad has known for many months—that Cuba is one of the safest destinations in the world.
If you haven’t already, consider adding Cuba to your travel plans in 2019 and 2020! As we’ve heard from travelers time and time again, this island nation never ceases to fascinate and exceed expectations for all who visit.
TOPIC: Cuba Update
On November 8, 2017, The Trump administration tightened restrictions on US travel to Cuba. Academic Travel Abroad is in full compliance with these regulations, and will continue to operate all Cuba programs without changes.
The new rules restrict how US citizens can go to Cuba—they may not travel on an individual people-to-people exchange program, and must travel with an organization instead—and where they can go once they are on the island—they may not access hotels, stores, and other businesses tied to the Cuban military. Academic Travel Abroad serves as a licensed sponsoring organization for Cuba travel and does not patronize any of the Cuban businesses included on the US government’s restricted list.
Academic Travel Abroad remains committed to sending US citizens to Cuba, and we are proud to serve as a facilitator of US-Cuban cultural exchange. We believe that educational travel is critical to reaching global understanding, for it is through educational travel that we learn to push past the simple, find the nuanced, and arrive at a deeper understanding. And as we continue to watch our leaders’ actions and hear our leaders’ words, we know that the answer to any question in the global conversation is: Go there. Inquire. Explore. Learn.
TOPIC: Cuba Travel Warning
Recent News: Cuba Travel Warning
On Friday, September 29, 2017, the US Department of State issued a travel warning to Cuba. Since last November, several US Embassy employees have exhibited serious health symptoms, including hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, and cognitive issues. The travel warning states that because US Embassy personnel’s safety is at risk and some of the incidents affecting US diplomats occurred in hotels frequented by US citizens, all US citizens should avoid travel to Cuba.
What We Know about What’s Happening in Cuba
There have been many conflicting reports about this situation in Cuba. For the sake of transparency with our travelers and partners and to counteract any misinterpretation or speculation, we would like to lay out the facts:
- The health symptoms reported to have afflicted 22 US diplomats were first recorded in November 2016 and have re-manifested as recently as August 2017. The US Department of State made news of these health issues public in July.
- No one, including the US government, knows exactly what has caused these symptoms.
- No other country, including Canada, whose diplomats were also affected, have issued travel warnings for Cuba.
- According to Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism last week, 500,000 U.S. citizens and over 3 million foreigners have visited Cuba since January.
- To date, no private U.S. citizens visiting Cuba have reported symptoms of the nature the diplomats have experienced.
- There will continue to be emergency services for US citizens through our Embassy in Havana.
- Visas for Cuba are still being issued to US citizens by the Cuban government.
- Airlines and cruise companies have announced they will continue operating in Cuba, despite the Warning.
Your Travel to Cuba
There is always an element of risk in travel, be it to a foreign country or to the neighboring city. We spend considerable resources to mitigate risk and protect our travelers, always placing their safety and wellbeing above all else. We have consulted with our risk management service, whose assessment deems the risk to our travelers and staff in Cuba “relatively low.” At this time, we are continuing to operate our travel programs to Cuba. We continue to actively monitor the situation daily through multiple sources, including reliable contacts on the ground in Cuba. Should circumstances change that would warrant a re-evaluation of our planned trips, we will take swift, appropriate action and keep all parties informed.
Two ATA staff members—Chase Poffenberger, Executive Vice President, and Samantha Barrie, Program Manager, were on the ground in Cuba when the announcement was made. They were attending a conference organized by RESPECT, an association of over 150 U.S. travel companies committed to Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel. A press release issued by RESPECT in reaction to the Travel Warning expresses the organization’s unanimous rejection of the Travel Warning.
TOPIC: POTUS Announces Cuba Policy, June 16, 2017
On Friday, June 16, 2017, President Trump announced a change in policy affecting the parameters under which US residents are able to travel to Cuba. The new regulations make it impossible for Americans to travel to Cuba independently under the “self-directed” people-to-people category previously allowed by President Obama’s administration. Instead, travelers must travel with an organization that is authorized to operate so-called “people-to-people” educational trips to Cuba, and reside in only those hotels that are outside of military conglomerate control. Academic Travel Abroad is an experienced provider of people-to-people trips. We are equipped to continue operating our Cuba programs in full compliance with new federal regulations. We do not foresee any interruption, and look forward to operating all trips with our usual impeccable standards, creative approach, and focus on engagement.
Now is the time to travel to Cuba! Cuba remains an exceptionally rich and exciting travel destination, and the door to traveling there is still very much open. Please join us, and take the trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most intriguing countries.
TOPIC: Immigration & International Education: A view from Academic Travel Abroad, January 30, 2017
We are an organization that believes in the power of international education. We send students and travelers around the world to learn, inquire, and engage because we believe that exposure is the antidote to intolerance, and international experience the precursor to international peace.
We stand with our US university partners, many of whom are navigating uncharted waters as they provide support and assistance to the many international students, staff, and scholars on their campuses.
We stand with our students and travelers, many of whom are the children, friends, or partners of immigrants, or immigrants themselves, and come to us from diverse backgrounds but with a unified goal: to learn while abroad.
We stand with our employees, both in the US and overseas, with a wide array of nationalities, who work every day to make our vision of increasing global understanding a reality.
TOPIC: Nice, France, Bastille Day Attack, July 15, 2016
We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s Bastille Day attacks in Nice and extend our heartfelt sympathies to our friends and colleagues in France. Last night, President Hollande extended the state of emergency that was put in place after the November, 2015 Paris attack, and announced a boost in France’s military presence across the country. Security will also be increased at the country’s borders.
We place the safety and wellbeing of our travelers above all else. We continue to carefully monitor the situation in France and elsewhere in Europe by relying on multiple sources, including our own risk management service. Should there be a need to alter or cancel a trip, rest assured, in coordination with our partner organizations, we will be in touch with our travelers. If a trip is cancelled due to high risks, participants will receive a full refund.
TOPIC: Brexit, Friday, June 24, 2016
Today’s news about the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union has our full attention, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. We do not foresee our business to the U.K. being affected in 2016 or 2017. The reason for this is that while Brexit, no doubt, will carry long-term implications on many fronts, the U.K.’s disengagement from the EU will take up to two years. What’s more, the countdown on this two-year period doesn’t begin until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been invoked. Some believe this will happen in November when a new cabinet and Prime Minister are in place.
We are in touch with our suppliers and are looking at possible currency and pricing shifts, but we have confirmation that price quotes already received from British suppliers for 2016 and 2017 programs will not change. As you may know, Academic Travel Abroad has a sophisticated currency protection plan, and as such, has already locked in currency rates for most of our European programs for 2016 and 2017. In fact, there may be opportunities to improve some prices that had not yet been finalized or marketed.
While there is much speculation out on the airwaves, we remain hopeful and positive about the future of travel to Britain. This strong island nation has weathered many a storm, and we have confidence our British friends will pull through this latest one as well, making the appeal of their culture and history all the more compelling in the 21st century narrative.
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