Travel News


Source: The Hill

July 17, 2016

Republican opposition to lifting the Cuban travel embargo is beginning to erode on Capitol Hill.

As President Obama looks to restore diplomatic relations with the country, a small but growing number of Republicans are getting behind a measure from Sens. Jeff Flake's (Ariz.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) that would lift the restrictions on American tourism in Cuba.

The bipartisan Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act from Flake has 51 co-sponsors so far, and gained an additional 14 Republican supporters this year alone in the House and Senate. Bolstering Flake’s effort, presumptive Republican nominee has Donald Trump has also expressed support for opening up Cuba, saying that he is “fine” with Obama’s attempt to normalize relation


Source: The Independent

July 18,2016

Café Cuba has become a household name in quality dining in some prime locations such as the Sliema Strand and on St George’s Road overlooking Spinola Bay in St Julian’s. Now with a third outlet open in Pama Shopping Centre in Mosta, the local franchise and its promise of a good time is growing ever more successful.
The owner and man behind Kitchen Concepts, Julian Sammut, spoke to Mathias Mallia about what sets this franchise apart and what inspired him about Cuba to name his lucrative franchise after it.

Cuba’s feel good spirit

Around six years ago, Mr Sammut was relaxing at home surfing the web when he came across some information about Cuba. “I was blown away because Cuba evokes a certain spirit of laissez-faire, happy-go-lucky, tomorrow never comes. It’s a kind of stylish decadence that even the most tired professionals enjoy every now and then; this is human nature.”

Is Gambling Coming to Cuba?

Although gambling in Cuba is currently outlawed, the country is definitely no stranger to games of luck. Havana, the capital of Cuba, is considered by many to be the precursor to Las Vegas. In the 1940-1950s Havana was pretty much the world’s largest gambling hub. Casinos were legal at the time and casino licences were granted to companies who invested sufficient amounts of money in tourism (mostly building casino & hotel resorts). In 1959, shortly after overthrowing Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro banned all forms of gambling.* Several casinos and slot machines were demolished, and gambling has been illegal ever since. Still, gambling in Cuba remains a tradition, and games of luck are still played illegally in underground gambling dens. However, anyone involved in operating an illegal casino may face charges, a fine and possible imprisonment. Players too are be prosecuted and even imprisoned for illegal gambling, though it’s rare. Online gambling is not specifically regulated in Cuba, but is also considered illegal, because of the complete ban on gambling. There are no reports on whether players are prosecuted for participating in online gambling or not. Some foreign, offshore online casino operating outside of Cuba still accept players from the country - see

Political Opposition to Gambling in Cuba

Bingo machines are sweeping Latin America. These are often called Class II. Of course, there is no Class I or Class III, since the categories were created by, and apply only to, the U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But, it is an easy way to distinguish these gaming devices from true slot machines, at least for political cover.

True casinos, with true slots and table games, are also common in much of Central and South America. But even more so in the Caribbean. A free Cuba will quickly allow casinos to reopen, in high-quality hotels designed for, and possibly even limited to, tourists.

At the moment, Cuba has no legal gambling. But other communist nations have had casinos and lotteries for decades.

Casinos in particular were seen as a way of extracting hard currency from tourists and from the underground economy. I played in a casino in Hungary when it was still communist, with all transactions in Deutsche Marks (this was before the euro). Gaming was often limited to resorts, with locals barred from betting, or even entering.

The bureaucrats who run Cuba can find a partial solution to the country’s present economic catastrophe and its pending political crisis by looking east—far east. Cuba needs to pull a Macau.

Resort casinos create jobs and bring in much needed revenue. They could ease Cuba’s transition out of the economic stagnation created by pure communism, as they did in China.

Of course, Cuba does not have hundreds of millions of middle-class residents with few other legal outlets for gambling. In fact, the people are so poor that it is one of the few countries where it actually is to the advantage of casino operators that locals would not be allowed to enter.

But, Cuba already attracts large numbers of tourists from Canada, Europe and Latin America; tourism is the nation’s leading industry. The spectacular success of Havana’s casinos in the 1950’s show what legal gaming could do, especially once Americans can visit without restrictions.

The major problem is political. The Revolution unleashed a deeply buried hatred of the casinos. The millions living in poverty resented the ostentatious displays of wealth, well-known to be owned by Meyer Lansky and other leaders of American organized crime. This antipathy was exacerbated by the non-casino slot machines that were found all over the island. It was also common knowledge that the money from those gaming devices, like the centavos deposited into the omnipresent parking meters, ended up in the bank accounts of Roberto Fernández Miranda, the brother-in-law of the dicta-tor, Fulgencio Batista. Source:

»Cuba further eases limits on private businesses

Source: CNN

May 18, 2011

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- The Cuban government has agreed to allow all private businesses to hire employees,­ something previously restricted to a limited number of occupations, state media said Tuesday.

Raul said more private enterprise would be allowed to help soak up some of the unemployed and provide new sources of income, via taxes, for depleted state coffers. The government published a list of 178 private occupations that Cubans could hold, from running a private restaurant to working as a plumber to being a party clown. Of those, 83 of them could hire employees

»Companies With Permission to Bypass Sanctions

Source: New York Times

December 23rd, 2010

The Treasury Department has granted nearly 10,000 licenses for deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.

Licenses allow almost 4,000 American companies to enter into transactions that would otherwise be prohibited by trade embargoes and sanctions rules. Most of the licenses were issued under a broadly defined “humanitarian” exemption mandated by Congress that has allowed companies to do billions of dollars of business in countries that have been blacklisted for years including Cuba

»Over 81,000 Cubans apply for permits for private work

Source: news.xinhuanet

November 28th, 2010

More than 81,000 Cubans applied for licenses to open small businesses or rent their homes since the government decided in October to expand these activities as part of a plan to eliminate 500,000 government jobs, the official daily Granma said on Saturday.

A total of 81,498 Cubans had applied for permits to develope "self employed" (private) work till Nov. 19, less than a month after the announcement of new measures for the expansion and flexibility of that activity, Granma said.

Granma stressed that already 29,038 permits have been delivered and more than 16,000 requests are under study. 20 percent of the accepted "self employed" licenses shall be used to produce or sell food, an activity with great demand on the island