ATTA member Dan Austin of Austin-Lehman Adventures was recently profiled in local press, The Billings Gazette, around his upcoming adventure travel trips from the U.S. to Cuba. Austin will be one of the first round of tour operators to resume legal trips to Cuba after the Obama Administration eased the longstanding travel restriction. The excerpt below describes what companies have to do to comply with the new policy in order to obtain the license:
To get an itinerary approved by the Treasury Department, Austin-Lehman had to team up with Christopher P. Baker, who has written eight travel books. The Billings company has to work with a U.S.-approved travel service provider and also work with one of three Cuban travel companies approved by the Cuban government.
U.S. dollars are highly sought after in Cuba, but travelers on this program have to spend the Cuban pesos and Austin’s hands are tied.
“We can’t rent a hotel. We can’t use our money in Cuba,” Austin said.
Baker and Austin had to build a trip around educational tours and set up daily meetings with “real people,” non-official Cubans.
“What they don’t want is people going under this program and going out to the beach,” Austin said. “And the only way we’ll get this license renewed is if we follow all the guidelines.”
For more information on what the legal trips will look like, and background on the politics and legalities surrounding the policy, read the entire article