Americans visit Cuba to research business opportunities

HAVANA – Travel to Cuba continues to rise and many American business owners are venturing to the communist island to research business opportunities.

Port Avenue in Havana has become an essential hub for tourists.

That’s where Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela ran into a group of travel agents and politicians from Charlotte, North Carolina.

They said they wanted to visit Cuba for the cultural experience and to see whether it is feasible to create a long-term business relationship.

Brent Cagle is the aviation director at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where passengers are starting to notice the new direct flights to and from Cuba.

“That was one of the draws for me to come on this trip, was to understand what Cuban culture is about and really see a part of the world that seems too remote, but is really so close to Charlotte,” Cagle said.

At the Plaza de Armas, Vela chatted with Vi Lyles, a member of the Charlotte City Council, who said she recognizes the deep history between both countries.

She thinks this is a chance to develop a stronger relationship.

“It’s really a chance for us to learn about the relationships that we can have with the Cuban people,” she said.

For Americans outside of South Florida, Cuba is still a mystery and many don’t understand the pain and complicated history between the people on both sides of the Florida Straits.

“We need to educate each other, but we also need to work with each other,” Lyles said.

Dennis Lewis runs World Travel Service.

For Americans, he said, Cuba is a unique place that was inaccessible for decades.

He believes that’s what makes it appealing, but he said many Americans still have misconceptions about Cuba.

“They want to see Havana as they pictured it in their mind, the original Havana,” Lewis said.

As a travel agent, he feels his job is to make sure that Americans know this is not a typical destination.

“You end up with two emotions at the same time,” Lewis said. “One is you see this beautiful architecture that dates back one, two centuries, and then there is a sadness because it’s been allowed to be run down and people are obviously compromised financially.”

Americans, he said, will have to come to Cuba knowing what to expect.

“If you don’t adjust that expectation, you’re going to have some people that might be a little uncomfortable,” Lewis said.

Most of the tourists Vela spoke to said they hope to come back to Cuba, especially the travel agent, who wants to create a program so that Americans can visit and see not just the culture side of Cuba, but also the realities of the Cuban people on the island.

Hatzel Vela, local10.com

January 31, 2017

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