Travel and adventure websites are urging people to hurry up and visit Cuba before Americans come in and ruin everything.
Since President Barack Obama announced a “new chapter” in U.S.-Cuba relations on Dec. 17, tourists searching for potential Cuban destinations have almost doubled. Obama mentioned easing of access for U.S. citizens and lifting the trade embargo as possible outcomes.
Online searches for visiting the Caribbean nation are up by 95 percent. While tourist travel for Americans to Cuba is still outlawed, Obama’s publicized plan to reopen relations with the country has many Americans searching for potential vacation spots.
Many travel and adventure websites are telling readers to experience Cuba as soon as possible, before it is reopened to the American market. They worry the country will be "Americanized" once U.S. tourists can visit. Gordon Steer, World Expeditions' U.K. manager, said, "Travelling to Cuba today often feels like stepping back in time — Internet access is limited and slow, there are no shopping centers and department stores, all cars go back to the 1940s and 1950s. You will not find any international fast food or coffee chains and all hotels are, either fully or partly, owned or run by the Cuban state."
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Cuba is described as a slow, original and untouched gem in the middle of a fast-paced and unoriginal world. Travel websites and social experts are wary of the effects that opening the U.S. tourism market would have on Cuba.
Bob Atkinson, an expert for travel website TravelSupermarket, said, "However you look at it, opening up to the Americans will change the way it feels and I think this will be to the detriment of the culture and heritage of the place."
Whether or not American tourism is legalized, the U.S. plans to open an embassy in Havana for visiting high-level government officials. Families of Cuban citizens will also find it easier to visit and will be allowed to return to the U.S. with more Cuban goods than before. How much money Americans can send to Cubans will also be increased fourfold, from $500 to $2,000 per quarter.
Obama cannot lift the economic embargo on Cuba by himself. For that, he would need the help of Congress, which enacted the embargo.
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