TripAdvisor gets OK to book travel services to Cuba

Associated Press

Needham, Mass. — Travel website TripAdvisor announced Friday that it can now help you book a flight to Cuba, find a place to stay there and see the attractions it has to offer.

TripAdvisor, based in Needham, is among a few companies to receive licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to facilitate travel bookings to Cuba for travelers from the U.S. and outside the U.S.

Cuba was for decades one of the toughest travel destinations for Americans because of the nations’ long-term enmity.

Democratic President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that they were restoring diplomatic ties, which were broken in 1961 after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and installed a communist government. The easing of diplomatic relations led to easier travel between the nations, which are just 90 miles apart.

TripAdvisor said its bookings will include flights, hotels, short-term home rentals and visits to cultural attractions.

“TripAdvisor looks forward to helping travelers all over the world discover Cuba’s vibrant history, people and culture as we begin the important work to make these trips possible,” company president Stephen Kaufer said in a statement.

One goal is to build better relations between the Caribbean island nation and the U.S. and their people, Kaufer said.

TripAdvisor, per federal rules, can book only travel-related services to Cuba for a dozen reasons including cultural, educational, business and family visits. Vacations aren’t among the reasons.

The company is building business relationships with U.S. and Cuban firms to provide travel-related services, and the full array of bookings should be available within a couple of months, spokesman Brian Hoyt said.

TripAdvisor has long been a resource for travelers looking to discover the best places to stay, dine and visit in Cuba. But American travel restrictions to Cuba were stricter than to just about any other nation in the world, including North Korea and Iran, Hoyt said.

“This,” he said, “is one of the last frontiers for the U.S. travel business.”

The first commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years too place over the summer.