Is travel to Cuba safe? This is probably the question on the minds of would-be tourists in light of current events. More specifically, is travel to Cuba safe for Americans? We thought we’d take a look at the facts and numbers on tourist safety after the recent travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department. Was the travel warning by the State department based on reality?
The answer is no. The travel warning by the U.S. State Department appears to be a politically motivated announcement. The warning is based on the politics of the U.S. president and a couple of anti-Cuban senators who wish to reverse any progress President Obama may have made with Cuba.
American diplomats and spies working under diplomatic cover have apparently been experiencing symptoms of dizziness, hearing loss, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping. Several Canadian diplomats also reported similar symptoms. Without an investigation into the matter, the American government immediately accused the Cuban government of using “sonic attacks” against its diplomatic personnel. Fifteen Cuban diplomats were then expelled from the Cuban embassy in Washington. Following this move, without further reason or rhyme, 60 percent of the staff from the American embassy in Havana were ordered home.
Let us be clear about something. It only takes a little reading to confirm that the Cubans have no interest in destroying the existing relationship. Cuba welcomes American tourists. Cuba wishes to do business with the Americans. Cuba wants the embargo/blockade against their country lifted. There is no motivation on the part of the Cubans to aggravate what both countries had previously achieved.
There has been no conclusive evidence to support the accusations against Cuba. Four million tourists traveled to Cuba in 2016 and none were “attacked by sonic rays.” The facts and numbers speak for themselves. This year, the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) reported that 2,530,000 tourists traveled to Cuba in the first six months. Do a little arithmetic. With some simple addition one finds a total of 6,530,000 tourists have traveled to the Island in the last 18 months with no reports of “sonic attacks.”
Scientific experts ranging from neuroscientists, MIT researchers, psychoacoustics experts, and technology experts all say the technology is not there. Medical experts are blaming it on mass hysteria. The conclusion is the same: there is no technology that would cause these types of symptoms.
No one living in the neighborhoods of the American embassy or the embassy district was injured or heard the noises of the sonic attacks. CNN reported that the employees affected were not in the same place at the same time. Americans who live and work in Havana know the story is false and are greatly amused. Academics also note the story is impossible and the timing of the “incidents” highly suspect. Not one “injured” person has come forward with medical proof.
As the story evolved and new information was added, the U.S. said the attacks also occurred at the Hotel Nacional and the Hotel Capri. The Cuban government investigated, ran tests at the hotels and found no evidence to support this latest tidbit. Tourists continue to book rooms at these hotels and there have been no complaints of dizziness etc.
Large corporations which provide travel services to Cuba and are more familiar with the Island than employees at the State Department are continuing to sell travel services. Airlines, cruise companies, tour companies, and travel agencies are selling flights, cruises, and tours to Americans despite the travel warning.
Airbnb is not planning to stop offering accommodation booking services in Cuba. In reference to the travel warning, Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas said that, “consistent with U.S. law, our operations in Cuba will continue.”
Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world for travel. Over the last year and a half, more than four million tourists of all nationalities returned from their Cuban vacations – unharmed, not robbed, with a fantastic suntan, wonderful experiences and memories.
The Cuban government investigating “the plot” have not been given access to any of the “victims” or their medical records. Since the beginning of the investigation, the American government has refused to work with the Cubans to find out “what really happened.” By comparison, the Canadian government is working with the Cubans to get the facts. It would only make sense.
Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, the agency investigating the event, has released the results of the investigation in a TV documentary called “Alleged Acoustic Attacks.” The video is now on YouTube. The investigation was conducted by legal, acoustic, health and technical experts. Their conclusion: A large gathering of crickets or cicadas chirping in unison in the diplomat neighborhood reached about 90-95 decibels – enough to cause hearing loss, hypertension and irritation in situations of long exposure. No kidding. How irritating.
Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Molina, a Cuban government expert, said, “We compared the spectrums of the sounds and evidently this common sound is very similar to the sound of a cicada.”
Collin Laverty of Cuba Educational Travel told us he’s been traveling to Cuba for the last 13 years and spent roughly half of his adult life living in Havana. He looks none the worse for wear because of those years in Havana.
We asked Collin if he thought Cuba is a safe travel destination. He told us, “I’ve also been fortunate to bring tens of thousands of people to Cuba, including Members of Congress, celebrities, Fortune 500 executives and regular U.S. travelers. We organize Cuba all kinds of travel, ranging from cultural tours, corporate retreats and incentive trips to corporate travel, luxury visits and university programs. We continue to operate business as usual and we’ve seen very little concern from travelers with sales remaining strong. Most Americans are smart enough to look at the facts and determine that these are isolated incidents that have not affected any private citizens.”
“The travel warning is completely political and without merit, and discredits the State Department as a responsible resource to travelers. I agree with the Canadian Government, which sees over 1 million of its people visit Cuba annually, in stating that Cuba is a friendly and safe country to visit,” he added.
Laverty concluded that the only dangers for tourists are “… coffee, rum, cigars and, of course, the tight-gripped hugs of the loving Cuban people.” Nice.
Other travel providers conclude the same. Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours said, “We continue to believe that Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers, and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes. There has long been significant political tension between the U.S. and Cuban governments, but the experience that our travelers have had on the ground with the Cuban people has been nothing short of amazing. We have no reason to expect that these experiences will not continue.”
The largest association of American travel providers to Cuba, RESPECT, has unanimously rejected the travel warning and the removal of diplomats from the Embassy in Havana.
The evidence mounts against the validity of State Department’s travel warning. Large American travel corporations, associations, scientific, medical, and technical experts, researchers, Cuban experts, American expats, results of the investigation, and 6,530,000 tourists can’t be wrong. The numbers and evidence just doesn’t add up.
Is travel to Cuba safe for Americans? Yes, indeed, travel to Cuba is safe for everybody. Four million tourists can’t be wrong. What to bring to Cuba on your next vacation? Sunscreen, tylenol for rum hangovers, and earplugs if you’re a light sleeper. The cicadas might keep you up.