Local travel businesses consider trips to Cuba

Author: Matt Dougherty
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.- A local travel business is already looking toward the future, with a new vacation destination possibly on the horizon.

Key West Express has been ferrying tourists departing from Southwest Florida to the country’s Southernmost Point for years. Now, the company’s hoping its ships will soon be allowed to sail even farther.

Ever since President Barack Obama announced a diplomatic policy shift with Cuba last week, travelers’ minds have been spinning.

Key West Express manager Tom Miller says his ships will be ready for passengers, if and when, a travel ban to Cuba should be lifted.

He says his ships would be able to make the trip to the communist country in 4 1/2 hours from Fort Myers Beach.

Although Miller says specific plans are extremely premature, he’s familiar with the growing demand for travel to Cuba. His booking agents field calls every day from travelers hoping to buy trips to Havana.

About 15 minutes from the docks on the beach, Martha Lopez is cooking up lunch for customers at her Cuban cafe.

Lopez was born in Cuba, then left with her family for Miami when she was three.

The old images of her native country, plastered on her cafe’s walls, help her imagine how Cuba might look.

“If it’s gonna be good for the island, for my people, I agree with it,” said Lopez. “Yeah I’m happy for this, it’s going to help them.”

Now that she says things are changing, she’s hopeful she’ll get the chance to someday see the island with her grown-up eyes.

“I appreciate it, being here all my life. I appreciate the United States for having all of my life, my kids were all born here. I feel sad because I haven’t gone back, but like I said, someday I will go.”

In order for the travel ban to be lifted completely, it’d have to pass through Congress.

In the meantime, the Obama administration will relax the travel restrictions by making it easier to obtain a license to travel to the country. No U.S. airlines fly to Cuba so direct travel, as of now, requires a chartered plane.

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