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GLAMER group leaders favor travel to Cuba

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Many GLAMER group leaders advocate opening travel to Cuba, while others continue to have concerns about the issue.

SALEM, Ohio — Amid a growing debate about allowing Americans to travel freely to Cuba, a majority of GLAMER group leaders across the country favor opening travel to Cuba, but not without concerns.

Group Leaders of America recently commissioned a survey of its membership on the subject and found that 55 percent favor opening travel to Cuba.

However, more than one half of survey respondents added comments, expressing concern about the Cuban government’s position on human rights and safety.

“While our groups lean toward being able to travel to Cuba, even those in favor recognize the freedom American travelers have in comparison to the lack of travel freedom held by the Cuban people,” said Charlie Presley of GLAMER.

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Although 55 percent responded in favor of open travel to Cuba, a full 40 percent stood against the proposed travel policy change. Those respondents were extremely vocal in their comments, with human rights and safety also their major concern.

“We are discussing a highly volatile subject, and quite honestly, I am pleased with the open discussion that occurred through the GLAMER survey,” said Presley.

The survey was the first of its kind by the group travel organization and tabulated results from more than 5,000 group travel directors. “The travel industry now knows the opinion of the travel groups on the issue of travel to Cuba,” said Presley.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced he was easing the travel restrictions to allow relatives to visit family in Cuba. A bill introduced in Congress would remove restrictions for all Americans.

Several travel organizations, including the National Tour Association, the United Motorcoach Association, Travel Alliance Partners, the American Society of Travel Agents and the United States Tour Operator Association, have gone on record as favoring the legislation.

In a Sept. 21 letter endorsing the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, the organizations cited three reasons for their support: It would restore American’s constitutional right to travel anywhere; it would benefit average Cubans by increasing their exposure to American values; and it would benefit the U.S. travel economy, especially tour operators, airlines, travel agents and cruise lines.

“NTA commends President Obama and his team for lifting restrictions on Cuban Americans wishing to visit their families in Cuba,” said NTA president Lisa Simon. “While this is certainly a step in the right direction, NTA will continue to support the right of all Americans to travel to Cuba. Lifting the travel ban to Cuba is long overdue, and we look forward to the time when all restrictions are lifted.”

However, the American Bus Association has not taken a position on the issue.

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“I am sure we have a lot of operators who would welcome opening up any market and having new opportunities to travel,” said ABA president Peter Pantuso. “As an association, we feel that during challenging economic times here in North America, we need to support our members here who support us. We have attractions that are hurting, hotels that are hurting, and we have tour operators who are having some challenges. We believe at this time, U.S destinations should get those scarce tourism dollars that are out there.”

Presley said GLAMER, as an organization, will not take a position on travel to Cuba, rather it will let the groups’ voices be heard by way of the survey results. “The travel industry is lobbying our government to open travel to Cuba, and I wanted to make sure they hear from the groups that make so much of our travel industry happen,” he said.

The American Society of Travel Agents estimates an additional 850,000 annual visitors to Cuba from the United States, not including relatives or cruise passengers, if the travel ban is repealed.
Presley said that GLAMER will keep individual results confidential, but the organization will publish the overall survey results to interested parties.

Contact GLAMER at (800) 628-0993 or with questions or comments.