Chad Olin is Founder & CEO of CUBA CANDELA a leading provider of private luxury tours to Cuba, specializing in highly curated custom journeys, and delivering a full suite of services including travel documents, luxury accommodation, and exclusive experiences.
In June 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new travel restrictions that received a great deal of consumer and trade press – not always accurate. We conducted a Q&A with Olin to get a clearer picture of the situation.
FTA: Any advice for your FTA colleagues about how to market and talk about Cuba to their clients looking to visit Cuba given the ambiguity of the recent changes?
Olin: We would reassure you that travel to Cuba remains safe and legal. Now may even be the best time in history to visit Cuba, as the country has made vast improvements in infrastructure and service, with new hotels
and improved WIFI coming online over the last several years. With the cruises gone, Cuba has become a hidden gem once again, and those travelers that are lucky enough to visit now will be treated to a more immersive and authentic cultural experience that may not be there just a few years from now. Book with a trusted land operator to ensure that all of your concerns are addressed and your trip is handled seamlessly.
FTA: What are you advising families today about safety, staying within government guidelines, etc., to travel to Cuba?
Olin: We are reminding families that Cuba is a very safe country to travel to, perhaps even the safest in the world. We are advising families that they should travel with a licensed tour operator in order to ensure compliance with the latest U.S. travel restrictions.
FTA: When families travel to Cuba, what are the ages of the children? Do you feel like they skew older than for other markets? If so, what does that say about parents and how they decide to take their family to Cuba?
Olin: We have provided travel to families with children of all ages, including infant children, to teenagers and up to adult children. It really depends on the family—some parents really value immersing their very young children in a new culture, and we create fun moments of interaction with local children. It is important for families with young children to remember that the infrastructure in Cuba is not up to the standard of most developed countries, so parents should bring any special items their children may need.
FTA: Where are families visiting when they go to Cuba? Are they mostly going to Havana? Or are they headed out to the more rural locations? What does this say about the personality type of the family interested in traveling to Cuba?
Olin: Havana is the first attraction but then most families also visit the local province Vinales, a beautiful countryside with lush green mountains and fun hiking trails. The culture of Havana is second to none, an important part of any family trip to Cuba, but the time out of the city can be great for family bonding during outdoor nature activities.
FTA: Are there any specific things parents should know about before booking their trip to Cuba, that are specific to bringing children there?
Olin: The first thing to remember is that Cuba is very safe, and it can be a wonderful family adventure. Parents should know that any special items, whether dietary needs or other needs, which their children may require in Cuba will likely not be available for purchase in stores and should be brought with the family. In particular, dietary needs of infant children and babies should be considered before travel to Cuba.
FTA: What misconceptions are industry colleagues expressing to you these days given the most recent news about government restrictions on travel to Cuba?
Olin: The biggest misconception is that travel to Cuba is difficult. In fact, travel to Cuba is very easy. You can book a flight directly on the major airlines, and there are many tour operators providing land services in Cuba. The Cuban visa is one of the easiest in the world to obtain—simply buy it at the airport with a credit card. While cruises have been cancelled, flights and land services continue uninterrupted!