CubaNews / July 2002
By Larry Luxner
Santo Domingo-based Emely Tours S.A., one of the Dominican Republic's largest travel agencies, now earns 30% of its revenues from its Cuba tour packages.
Graciela Rosario, who runs Emely's Cuba desk, says the agency is bringing 150 tourists a week to Cuba, of whom 100 fly to Havana and the rest to Santiago de Cuba.
"Most of them are going just out of curiosity, to know Cuba," says Rosario, who has been to Cuba three times. "We don't sell too many packages to Varadero, because it's all beaches and we have that here."
Rosario told CubaNews that nearly all her clients are Dominicans, flying to Cuba mainly for health tourism, business or conferences. Some Americans -- mainly Puerto Ricans -- also use Emely's services as a way to get to Cuba, since it's easier to fly from San Juan to Havana via Santo Domingo than via Cancún, Montego Bay or Nassau, which is the way most U.S. citizens circumvent the travel ban to Cuba.
"We've never had problems with the U.S. government," says Rosario, though she adds that "people who take our tours travel at their own risk."
Emely buys wholesale packages from Cubana de Aviación, which also services the Dominican Republic through its smaller affiliate, Aerocaribbean, with which Cubana has a code-share agreement. Emely has been offering trips to Havana since 1982, and to Santiago de Cuba since 1994.
Prices for a three-day package to Havana range from $475 at the Hotel Presidente to $511 at the Hotel Neptuno-Tritón to $675 at the Hotel Meliá Cohiba. Prices for a three-day package to Santiago de Cuba range from $422 at the Hotel San Juan or Hotel Las Américas to $550 at the Hotel Meliá Santiago de Cuba. All packages include round-trip airfare, breakfast and dinner each day, lodging, a city tour and airport transfers.
"I think this year will be better than last year," says Rosario, adding that "people feel more secure traveling to Cuba than to the United States."
Details: Emely Tours, Av. Tiradentes, Esq. Pastoriza, Santo Domingo. Tel: (809) 566-4545 x106. Fax: (809) 683-6649. Internet: www.emelytours.com.do.