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NTA Participates in U.S.-Cuba Travel Conference, Visits Havana

October 21, 2003

NTA Participates in U.S.-Cuba Travel Conference, Visits Havana
Oct. 21, 2003 – In an effort to foster better understanding of the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba and its implications, NTA participated in a conference on U.S.-Cuba travel Oct. 16-18, then joined other tourism professionals on a one-day visit to the controversial country.

The Cancun, Mexico, conference and visit to Havana, Cuba, was organized by the Association of Travel-Related Industry Professionals. NTA and ATRIP believe that engagement through travel allows Americans to experience other cultures and, more importantly, it exposes others to America’s culture and values. NTA President Hank Phillips, CTP, serves on ATRIP’s board of directors.

ATRIP maintains that lifting the travel ban to Cuba is long overdue and would provide a much-needed boost to both the U.S. economy and the travel industry.

"Travel is the perfect freedom, and as such, Americans should have the opportunity to explore the world," said NTA Chairman Charlie McIlvain, CTP. "It’s gratifying that steps have begun to eliminate the travel barrier between the United States and Cuba."

The ban on U.S. travel to Cuba has been off and on since 1961, with the latest restrictions enacted in 1982. Despite recent appeals by several travel organizations to lift the restrictions, President George W. Bush has vowed to tighten them.

According to the Cuban Tourism Ministry, more than 100,000 U.S. citizens visited Cuba last year illegally, most commonly passing through Jamaica, Canada or Mexico.

"People are coming to Cuba. We think they should do it legally, they should do it the right way and they should use tour operators to do it," said Matt Grayson, NTA’s director of Industry and Government Relations. Grayson represented NTA at the ATRIP conference and on the day-trip to Havana.

Opening the doors to travel to Cuba "will provide new opportunities for our tour operator members to package a destination which most Americans have never visited," said McIlvain. "At the same time, it will generate cultural enhancements between the two nations, while providing a better understanding between citizens of each country."

NTA will continue working with ATRIP and other industry organizations as the prospects of Cuba as a destination for Americans widens.

"The Cuban initiative is exciting," said NTA Legislative Counsel Jim Santini. "NTA is on the cutting edge in our active pursuit of Cuba as a new and exciting destination. Sooner or later, the Cuban travel door will be unlocked for all U.S. visitors. NTA’s mission is to make it sooner."

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