A Life in Travel

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Wildland Adventures Response to US State Department Travel Warning to Cuba


October 9, 2017

We recognize that Wildland guests and others planning to travel to Cuba would be concerned by the US State Department notice warning US citizens to avoid travel to Cuba issued September 29th, 2017. The safety and comfort of our travelers is of utmost concern, as is an honest assessment of travel conditions in Cuba. We have reviewed the situation and consulted Cuban and American guides, local experts, and our partners on the ground in Cuba, including the largest association of over 150 tour service providers dedicated to ethical travel in Cuba. As a result, we are continuing to fully operate our trips to Cuba. It should be noted that the State Department travel warning and Trump administration Cuba travel policy in no way prohibits US persons from traveling to Cuba. (See our previous response to President Trump's June 21, 2017 travel pronouncement: Frequently Asked Questions on New Cuba Travel Restrictions.)

The September 29  travel warning is based on reports of mysterious "sonic attacks" directed at Havana-based US diplomats that presumably caused unexplained health problems. These were first reported over a year ago during the Obama administration. Although the Trump administration made an additional announcement that unidentified tourists had also been impacted, no names or the sharing of any medical files or evidence in any of the claims pertaining to diplomats or tourists has been forth coming. 

Although the FBI investigated and found no evidence of sonic attacks, the Trump administration has nonetheless directed the US Embassy in Havana to withdraw 60% of non-essential staff (notably those entrusted with trade and economic matters). The embassy remains open and operational to provide emergency services to US citizens in Cuba.

Wildland group being entertained by a Cuban duo we hired for our private audience in the lobby of a small hotel

Here are some important considerations leading up to and about the recent travel warning:

  • After Huricane Irma, the Trump Administration issued a warning of the potential health impacts of the storm. In fact, Havana was spared from significant damage, and debris throughout the country was cleaned up in a matter of days. Now, 30 days after the hurricane hit, tourism services are back in full swing. An estimated 95% of the country is fully functioning with nearly all hotels, restaurants, roads and services back to normal.
  • Among the 500,000 US visitors to Cuba this year, and millions more from throughout the world, there are no recorded health issues from the hurricane or the reported "sonic attacks", and in reference to the latter US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed this recently stating, "We have no reports that private US citizens have been affected..."
  • These "sonic attacks" are reported to have occurred in diplomatic residences, and at specific hotels frequented by American citizens. Even so, we do not use these hotels in preference of smaller, lesser-known accommodations especially including Casas Particulares which are small, private B&Bs owned by local families.
  • The US Foreign Service Association, the powerful union that represents US diplomats around the world, opposes the decision to withdraw US diplomats from Cuba. Association President Barbara Stephenson stated, "We have to remain on the field and in the game."
  • Major US airlines including American, Jet Blue, Delta, United and Southwest, continue to operate flights to Cuba as scheduled, and the island remains a popular port-of-call for cruise lines.
  • Travel insurance is available if you become ill or have an accident while in Cuba. Furthermore, cancellation or trip interruption due to natural disasters such as hurricanes is also covered by travel insurance.
The best dining experiences are in small family-owned restaurants like this that serve farm to table meals

Two professors who interviewed sound experts and looked at the matter from a different point of view suggest in their op-ed piece in the New York Times, October 10, 2017, Mysterious Sounds and Scary Illnesses as Political Tools, that inexplicable sounds and indeterminate illness underlying a travel warning bolsters a political agenda. On its merit from the standpoint of health and safety for American travelers, especially given no tourists have reported a related illness, the latest travel warning may best be considered a preventative measure. In fact, Cuba remains one of the safest nations in the world for international guests, absent of drug wars, terrorism, guns, gangs, kidnappings, and tropical pandemics. Unless more definitive and consequential information emerges, we encourage travelers to go to Cuba now to experience the beauty of this island nation and the warmth of our Caribbean neighbors.

As stated in our previous blog, Frequently Asked Questions on New Cuba Travel Restrictions, we are committed more than ever to support Cubans and their families, especially those we have come to know over the years who contribute so much to the enjoyable experiences of our travelers. In recent years, many small community-based entrepreneurs have invested in tourism buying new vehicles, remodeling accommodations, building new restaurants, etc. They need and deserve our ongoing support. We believe the best foreign policy towards Cuba is to lift the U.S. embargo and respect the sovereignty and self-determination of the Cuban people. As individual travelers on people-to-people trips to Cuba, we create our own citizen-based foreign relations that bring real change to Cuban communities and renewed hope and love between neighbors, outside of the political machinations of US governmental policy.  

More information about the travel warning can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/cuba-travel-warning.html

Interested in travel to Cuba? Review all our trips to Cuba or ask about your own custom itinerary. For more information call 206-365-0686 or email:
Grettel Calderon, Cuba Program Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Kurt Kutay, President, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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