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Orbitz Organizes Online to (Re)Make Cuba a Tourist Hot Spot

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 11 2009

This is interesting. The online travel company Orbitz is taking an aggressive political stand -- one that may not please all of its customers, but that stands to open up new territories for its travel services. Yesterday, Orbitz launched a spin-off called Open Cuba, and is offering anyone who signs its online petition $100 off future travel to Cuba when and if the Obama Administration lifts Cuba travel restrictions (and Orbitz can finally offer package vacation deals to the island, just 90 miles off of Key West, Florida). It wasn't all that long ago, of course, that Cuba was a hot destination for American travelers. For many of us the island still retains the air of romantic exoticism of Hemingway motorboating over to Havana for balmy days of fishing, writing, and relaxation. In his first 100 days, Obama relaxed decades-old restrictions on travel to Cuba by Cuban-Americans. But limits on excursions to the island are still in place for other Americas. It seems unlikely that Congress will move to significantly lessen travel restrictions to Raul Castro's Cuba in the near future, but a super majority of the American people are eager to see freer travel between the two countries. Orbitz CEO Barney Harford says he has run the numbers, and found that “67% of Americans would...support a policy that would allow U.S. travel agents such as Orbitz to book vacation travel to Cuba.” (Photo by tonayo)