26 JANUARY 2015
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New rules have come into effect as part of moves to improve US – Cuba relations.
The new regulations will allow Americans to visit the island for any of a dozen specific reasons, including family visits, education and religion, without first obtaining a special licence from the US government as was previously the case.
But trips purely for tourism remain specifically prohibited.
Collin Laverty, President of US company Cuba Educational Travel, said that the "educational" category would probably be one of the most-used formal categories for travel.
"You will be expected to visit the agricultural market, speak with the owners of private restaurants, share your own life experiences with Cubans and, of course, to stay away from the beaches," said Laverty, somewhat tongue in cheek.
Many of the Americans who travel to the island already visit beach resorts such as Varadero, on the island's northern coast, betting on the fact that what US authorities don't know will not hurt them.
Currently travel to the island from the US is either via third countries such as Mexico, or directly on chartered flights that are permitted to carry licensed travellers.
United Airlines plans to serve Cuba from Houston and Newark, subject to government approvals. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways said they would look into adding services. www.cubaeducationaltravel.com
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