Cuba experience turns U.S. travelers against embargo

CUBA STANDARD — Travel is turning U.S. citizens into opponents of the embargo against Cuba, according to a survey commissioned by Friendly Planet Travel, a licensed U.S. travel provider.

Friendly Planet surveyed 423 Americans who visited Cuba during the past two-and-half years as part of people-to-people programs licensed by the Obama Administration. According to the survey, 88.2% of Americans who return from Cuba say they are more supportive of ending U.S. sanctions. That number compares to 10.8% of respondents who say their travel experience had no effect on their opinion.

Before visiting Cuba, 47.8% of respondents said they viewed the Cuban government as a “repressive communist regime that stifles individuality and creativity.” After returning, only 19% agreed with that statement.

“The results of this survey show that the impact of people-to-people travel is undeniable and transformational in the lives of those who travel to Cuba now that restrictions are being eased,” a press release quotes Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet Travel. “In my more than 30 years in the travel industry, I have never seen a single travel experience change so many lives.”

In Cuba

The survey was conducted in December 2013. Friendly Planet Travel, based in suburban Philadelphia, is a people-to-people program operator that has taken thousands of U.S. travelers to Cuba since 2011.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents agreed with the statement that they can now “more easily separate politics from culture and appreciate people for who they are.”

Only 3.6% of travelers surveyed chose to visit Cuba because of a personal or family connection. Rather, 74.4 percent say they chose to travel to Cuba on a people-to-people program because they were “curious about what life was like in Cuba.” The biggest surprises for many of these travelers are the openness and friendliness of Cubans toward Americans, the entrepreneurial drive of many Cubans, and the vibrancy of the arts and cultural scene in Cuba.

A high 81.3% said they would travel to Cuba again.

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