A new safety warning has been issued by the U.S. State Department regarding travel to Cuba.
Taking a step further away from the warm, open relations established under the Obama administration, the government warned Americans on Friday not to travel to Cuba citing the recent sonic attacks on U.S. Embassy Havana employees. The mysterious attacks have caused individuals to suffer from a range of symptoms including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping.
In the strongly worded statement, the State Department said the U.S. and Cuban governments have not yet determined who is responsible for the attacks and noted it is the Cuban government’s responsibility to take steps to prevent such attacks.
“Because our personnel’s safety is at risk and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba,” said the statement.
The bizarre sonic attacks have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens. As a result, the State Department ordered non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members to leave the country.
Due to the drawdown of embassy staff in Havana, the warning also noted only emergency services will be available for U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba.
Those in the travel industry say the latest warning and concerns are overstated and will likely put a damper on what is a blossoming tourism destination.
Colin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, told the New York Times that the advisory is unwarranted.
“The U.S. government has a responsibility to make clear to U.S. travelers that Cuba continues to be safe, that these are isolated incidents and there is no risk to Americans traveling to Cuba,” said Laverty whose company has brought student tour groups to the Caribbean island nation for years.
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Other U.S. tourism industry insiders say they will continue to offer trips to Cuba as usual.
“We continue to believe that Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes,” Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours told the Associated Press. “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.”
Airlines, cruises and others in the travel industry say they will continue taking Americans to Cuba as well.
Travel industry officials far and wide pointed out there are no reports of American travelers being harmed by the mysterious sonic attacks against U.S. diplomats and other officials and that travel to Cuba by Americans remains legal under existing regulations.