Live Cuba’s business development manager Alan Meadows is seeking to solidify its trade relationships.
From the neoclassical buildings adorning the Unesco World Heritage Site of Trinidad to the vintage American cars cruising the streets of Old Havana, visiting Cuba is like stepping back in time.
Since the US first imposed an embargo on this Caribbean nation in the 1950s limiting the importing of goods, not much has changed.
Its charming, rustic way of life has seen Cuba top many travel bucket lists, eliciting a growing appetite from the UK travel trade.
Live Cuba is the trade-facing arm of London-based Live Holidays, which has specialised in selling Cuba for more than 16 years.
Fronted by Alan Meadows, formerly trade sales development manager at Cuba Holidays, Live Cuba has been helping agents grow sales to the destination since its inception in July.
“People are unsure about what you can do and what travelling around Cuba involves”
“We want to work with as many agents as possible in 2020,” says Meadows. “I think there is a gap in knowledge with the trade. People are unsure about what you can do and what travelling around Cuba involves.”
With several events and fam trips in the pipeline for next year, Meadows is confident of winning over more support from agents.
“At the moment it’s only me doing store visits in the south-east of England.
“However, we are looking at increasing the size of our on-the-road sales team. We are also launching a system offering agents real-time pricing on the most popular multi-centre itineraries and tours via an online login.”
The new operator has endured some challenges since its inception; the demise of Thomas Cook resulted in the recall of Live Cuba’s first brochure, which featured product and flights from the ill-fated travel giant.
Now things are looking up, says Meadows. “The second edition should be reaching shelves in December, and we are looking at a yearly print run of 40,000. As for flights, there are
still options for reaching Cuba from the UK, such as Virgin Atlantic’s service from Gatwick to Havana, soon to be moving to Heathrow in summer 2020.”
When it comes to unforgettable experiences, Live Cuba offers numerous itineraries.
Highlights include Enchanting Cuba, a 11-night trip through Havana to the green hills of the Vinales Valley (from £1,469pp), and the week-long Eastern Cuba Explorer, which comprises visits to Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa and the municipality of Holguin (from £489pp).
Meadows believes Live Cuba’s expertise is a strong USP. “Many members of our team are Cuban-born and will offer honest and informed insight into the country should [agents] need any additional information.”
As for accommodation, the operator features well-known brands such as Iberostar, Melia and Kempinski as well as casas particulares – private homestays offering bed and breakfast.
Meadows says homestays are an effective way of helping to boost the country’s economy.
“Tourism is so important to the Cuban people, especially after the recent reimposition of sanctions by the US government that have stopped US cruise lines docking there. Staying in a casa particular is a great option, as money will go directly to the family that owns it. Plus clients will get to rub shoulders with the locals, who are so warm and friendly.”
Che Guevara Mausoleum: Situated in the city of Santa Clara, the memorial houses the remains of the communist rebel, who in 1967 was killed fighting for revolution in Bolivia.
Clients can also trace the history of Che Guevara’s military campaigns through photographs and sculptures.
Playa Sirena: Touted as Cuba’s finest beach, Playa Sirena is accessible from Havana and the resort town of Varadero.
It has more than a mile of powder-white sand and its calm waters are ideal for kayaking and catamaran excursions.
Malecon: This four-mile promenade and seawall, which houses colourful Edwardian-era buildings, is popular with poets, artists and musicians alike.
Recommend clients sit along the wall, dubbed “Cuba’s longest sofa”, to take in the sunset.