Abercrombie & Kent is offering an educational exchange program called Cuba: People to People as part of its Connections by Abercrombie & Kent product line.
The company received its license to operate people to people programs from the US Treasury Department two weeks ago. It has been working on its program for 19 months. Although Abercrombie & Kent has never had a program for Cuba before, its international parent company with offices in the UK and Australia has offered travel programs to Cuba before, which gives the US division of the company a head start in putting together its programs. The major difference between the US company's products and those of its sister companies abroad is that the US still maintains an embargo on Cuba dating back to the days of the early 1960s under President John F. Kennedy.
Because of still tight restrictions on travel to Cuba by Americans, American operators must parse their words very carefully when marketing travel programs. The marketing of the tours must fit within the narrow framework of educational exchanges and cannot be presented as leisure tours or vacations.
A&K announced a Cuba product in 2011, but at the time did not have its own license and offered the product through a separate licensed entity. Now the company has its own license to operate educational exchange programs under the People to People category of travel that is allowed under regulations that were loosened during President Clinton's second term. The regulations were tightened under Bush and travel to Cuba slowed almost to a standstill. But since the Obama administration loosened the restrictions again for people to people travel, the product offerings for Cuba travel have expanded again with a number of tour operators rolling out new Cuba programs.
A&K USA's president, Phil Otterson, told Travel Pulse, "A&K's people to people itinerary is carefully planned to provide an experience engaging, intimate experiences with Cuba's dynamic residents that immerse guests in everyday life, allow them to interact with locals and foster a better understanding of what makes Cuba such a fascinating place."
With an ever-expanding number of Cuba programs on the market, Jean Fawcett, A&K's media relations manager, says A&K is trying to differentiate itself through the experiences it is offering. "One of the experiences allows guests to meet baseball players and to talk to them and learn about why baseball is the national pastime for them as well. Everything relates back to people to people. This kind of interaction is exactly what People to People travel is about. We offer opportunity after opportunity for guests to interact with people in all walks of life, including farmers, artists and musicians, as well as an expert on Cuba-US relations who will illuminate the history of relations between the two countries and show how people were affected by that history."
A&K clients will have the opportunity to meet artists of the Proyecto de Arte Por la Costa, interact with local musicians at a private Buena Vista Social Club-style concert, take a salsa lesson, meet with artist Salvador Gonzales who turned an alley into an Afro-Cuban art and music epicenter and learn about the influence of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria on street art and music.
A&K's program also differentiates itself by including stays in two destinations: the Melia Buena Vista hotel in Cayo Santa Maria and at the Melia Havana in Havana. Otterson says the 10-day program is exceptional in the value it provides for the price. "It's a comprehensive itinerary," says Otterson, "with an exceptional per diem pricing because of the length of time in Cuba."
A&K's Cuba program is priced at $4,005 per person double occupancy for the land arrangements if booked by Aug. 15. Charter air from Miami to Santa Clara, Cuba, and from Havana to Miami is priced $525 per person. The price of the Cuban visa is extra. The first departure will be Sept. 6 and will be followed by a series of departures through the end of 2013 and into 2014. All departures are guaranteed.