Tuesday, December 9, 2008

American Society of Travel Agents Addresses Obama

ASTA Calls on New Administration to Lift Cuba Travel Ban

Requests that President-Elect Obama Support Americans’ Freedom to Travel

Alexandria, Va., Dec. 9, 2008ASTA is calling on President-elect Obama to permit Americans to travel to Cuba. During the 2008 presidential election campaign, the President-elect indicated that he supports changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba, including a suspension of restrictions on family remittances, visits, and humanitarian care packages from Cuban Americans. While these proposals are encouraging, ASTA believes that Americans would best be served by an elimination of current restrictions on travel to Cuba.

In a letter dated Dec. 4, 2008, ASTA and a host of organizations from across the business community formally requested that the incoming Obama administration make immediate changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba, including a removal of the travel ban.

“ASTA has long supported the principle that Americans ought to be allowed to travel across the globe without restriction,” said Chris Russo, ASTA’s president and chair. “While the U.S. government plays a legitimate and valuable role in exercising travel advisories to provide up-to-date information concerning the conditions in foreign countries, to use travel freedom as an instrument of foreign policy manipulation ultimately does harm to the very citizens it purports to protect.

“Were the American people allowed to travel to Havana, as they currently are allowed to travel to Pyongyang, Tehran, Khartoum, and other cities whose nations’ leaders are publicly opposed to American interests, they could serve as ambassadors of freedom and American values to the Cuban people. Routine interaction with American tourists and with Americans travelling for business, religious, or educational purposes would permit the Cuban people to see the United States in a new, more favorable light.”

Russo continued: “Beyond the obvious economic opportunities awaiting both countries if current travel restrictions were to be lifted, these changes would also benefit Cuba’s neighbors and the travel industry that services them. Whether as part of multi-destination cruises or as a stop along the way to other countries in the region, the resulting influx of travelers to Cuba cannot help but spark demand for new passenger routes, tour operations, and travel agent services.”

ASTA is committed to work with its allies from within and outside the travel and tourism industry to make the case for these policy changes, and it looks forward to working with the incoming Obama administration and the 111th Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel the world without restriction from their own government.

For additional information on this issue, please visit ASTA.org or contact Colin Tooze, vice president of government affairs, at ctooze@asta.org.

The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest and do business

No comments: