Tour operators: Cuba travel warning unnecessary

Tour operators: Cuba travel warning unnecessary

Companies operating Cuba tours say that the State Department’s
warning against travel to Cuba should go unheeded.

The State Department said it issued the warning because
diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana were targeted in mysterious “health
attacks.”

Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, called
the warning “absolutely unnecessary and counterproductive.”

“There are no reports of any incidents affecting U.S.
travelers and the isolated events are not considered a threat to visitors’
safety. Cuba continues to be one of the safest places in the world for
visitors,” said Laverty.

Laverty pointed out that private U.S. citizens haven’t been
victims of the attacks. However, the State Department said that attacks had
occurred in residences and hotels that Americans frequently visit, and thus
traveling citizens were at risk.

Those affected experienced hearing loss, cognitive issues,
trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and ear problems.

“There still remains few concrete details about these
attacks and incidents in Havana,” said Robert Cooney, acting regional
director of Intrepid Travel. “The State Department travel warning does
seem highly precautionary given how little information is available at this
time.”

Cooney said Intrepid Travel has been in touch with
passengers who are booked on upcoming Cuba people-to-people tours and that they
have expressed no desire to cancel.

“It is too early to tell how this will impact American
travel to Cuba, and we are holding off on making any operational decisions
until further details are revealed,” said Cooney.

Intrepid has hosted nearly 1,000 American travelers in Cuba
over the past few years.

Americans “speak so highly of the warm and hospitable
nature of the Cuban people. So while the State Department warning implies a
very different rhetoric, we hope we can continue fostering meaningful
connections between American travelers and the Cuban people,” said Cooney.

 The U.S. also warned
citizens that because it is withdrawing most of its diplomats in Cuba in
response to the attacks, the U.S. government will have limited ability to help
them if they travel to Cuba.

Said Laverty, “The United States must prioritize the
safety of our diplomats serving overseas. At the same time, this must be
balanced with policies that serve U.S. national interest, such as a functioning
U.S. embassy in Havana and travel in both directions. It’s imperative that the
U.S. make decisions based on facts in an atmosphere of transparency and absent
of ideology and domestic politics.”

Tom Popper, president of InsightCuba, said Cuba remains a
safe destination, despite the State Department warning. He also said Cuba
tourism is back in business after Hurricane Irma.

“I’m
happy to report that life is back to normal after Hurricane Irma and everything
I’ve known to love and appreciate about this wonderful country is intact,”
Popper said. “Cuba remains a safe and welcoming destination for all
international visitors despite the announcement and Caribbean storms.”

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