How will Obama's decision to open Cuba affect travel?

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The seas have parted and travel to Cuba is about to take off.  Cruise ships will make calls, hotels will open, and airlines will bring millions of Americans to Cuba.

So has been the perception after President Obama’s announcement Tuesday about the normalizing of relations between the two nations.

Yet, despite all the excitement from this latest move, don't expect to see much in the way of change for travel and Cuba, at least anytime soon.

Travel to Cuba for the past several years has been limited to aid-related travel, as well as what's known as the people-to-people exchange program—guided tours focused on education and cultural exchange –not fun in the sun.   Trips average about $2,000 to $4,000, which is more than many Caribbean vacations.

That's not going to change in the near future as travel is still banned except for these narrow, and very expensive, programs.

Here’s why you’re not going to see throngs of people heading off to Cuba just yet.

Infrastructure Issues

If you want to bring one of the latest cruise ships to Cuba you might have to wait a bit.  Port infrastructure and the ability to offload thousands off cruisers in an hour from a massive ship might be years away.  The sheer volume would wreak havoc on a destination that has seemingly been frozen in time back to the 1960's when the embargo began.  This charm, illustrated in photos and reports, is one of the biggest draws for Cuba and why there is a significant pent up demand to visit.

Arriving by air, despite the various countries like Canada that have been flying there for years, will be limited by infrastructure as well.  Jose Marti Airport in Havana will need to undergo significant upgrades to handle what could be a large influx off traffic from the United States market.

It's Not Cheap

Current travel to Cuba from the United States is only possible for limited , including family visits, religious and humanitarian trips or for profession research purposes.  These limitations have made travel to this island destination an expensive proposition for anyone that can jump through the necessary hoops. This won't be changing anytime soon given the travel embargo that's still in place.  The only way Americans will be able to visit is based on the same programs that are currently in place, despite Obama's announcement.

On the other hand, Cuba is one of the best value destinations for Canadian travelers who have been going here for years.  For our neighbors up north, their fear is a rapid rise in costs should travel be opened up, and as demand soars.  When travel does open up, expect prices to spike as limited inventory, and higher demand, will push prices up, effectively pricing out many of today's existing travelers to Cuba.

Note: The idea of traveling to Cuba is one that has been romanticized about in movies and popular culture. It might take a while, but you'll eventually have the chance to put yourself into that scene.  But not before some serious political and infrastructure changes are made.

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