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Coming and Going: Orbitz Urges Unrestricted Travel to Cuba

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

ANNALS OF INDUSTRY

Cuba Libre?

When the Obama administration announced last month that it was easing restrictions on travel to Cuba, there was an initial flurry of cheering followed by a "Huh?" After all, the new rules allow only Americans with family members in Cuba to travel there, "family members" meaning those with three degrees of family relationship (for example, second cousins) or fewer. The development appears to have only increased public support for a complete lifting of the travel ban, which one survey finds 67 percent of Americans want.

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Jumping into the debate is the online travel company Orbitz, which on Monday launched the Web site Open Cuba (http://www.opencuba.org), where Americans can sign a petition supporting an end to all travel restrictions to the country. The company says it will deliver the petition to the president and Congress later this year. (Signers get a $100 gift certificate they can apply toward a Cuban vacation if the government allows unrestricted travel and when Orbitz can book the trips.)

"We've taken the position that Americans should have the freedom to travel anywhere in the world," said Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt, noting that the U.S. government imposes no restrictions on travel to North Korea, Iran and "other places where governments don't see eye-to-eye."

Thousands have signed the Open Cuba petition, according to Hoyt, who said that Orbitz is hoping to play a major role in what he described as a grass-roots movement. "We're . . . inviting others in the travel industry and Cuban American groups as well," he said.

TRAVEL TICKER

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Reporting: Scott Vogel

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