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Barney Harford Speaks Out

Orbitz CEO: Let’s open up Cuba

Nelson Alcantara  May 28, 2009

Many from the US travel and tourism industry have been lobbying for US lawmakers to lift the travel restriction to Cuba. While efforts have not completely fallen on deaf ears, as some lawmakers have been receptive to the idea, the rule remains: If you are a journalist, government official, have relatives in Cuba, are a full-time professional (including doctors, dental hygienists, environmentalists, and actors), going to conferences, or doing research, you “might” be able to go to Cuba, under a "General License."

Joining the effort to open up leisure travel to Cuba is online giant Orbitz. In a statement released on Wednesday (May 27), CEO Orbitz Worldwide Barney Harford said: “We believe passionately in the power of travel to transform lives. And we believe that people should have the freedom to travel wherever they choose.

Americans today have the right to travel to any country in the world except Cuba.”

According to him, Orbitz launched two weeks ago, which is “a campaign that gives people a way to petition US leaders to end the 50-year Cuba travel ban and give all Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba.”

One hundred fifty-nine congressmen and 29 senators recently sponsored the bipartisan Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which seeks to open up travel to Cuba for all US citizens. “The opportunity to end the 50-year ban hangs in the balance,” the Orbitz CEO said. “Be part of the movement to give Americans the right to travel wherever they choose by signing the petition at”

The momentum behind this issue is growing, said Harford. “A recent Orbitz-Ipsos poll shows that 67 percent of Americans favor allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba.”

He added, Cuban American groups, such as the Cuban American Alliance and the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, have endorsed Our position on opening up travel to Cuba is aligned with that of Human Rights Watch.

He also said: “We recognize that some of you may have different perspectives on this subject; however, our position on this is premised on two core beliefs: People should have the freedom to travel where they choose; Travel - and the resulting exchange of ideas between people from different countries - can be a powerful force for positive change.”

Orbitz CEO: Let’s open up Cuba
Orbitz CEO Barney Harford - Image via

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