The growing number of U.S. visitors to Cuba—a virtual tsunami that has jumped by 80% since the Obama Administration began relaxing travel to the island in 2015—has prompted the creation of RESPECT (Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel), an association of 100 U.S. institutions, organizations and travel organizers that arrange Cuba travel (see below).

From January 2015 through June 2016, Cuba received 732,868 visitors from the United States, and commercial flights opened up from major U.S. cities to a number of Cuban airports, including Havana, this November.

“The sudden upsurge has put a strain on existing Cuban infrastructure,” said Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul, one of RESPECT’s initiators. He noted that the association hopes to make U.S. travelers more aware of the need to protect Cuba’s cultural heritage and environment, as well as to support the local economy. “Our aim is to make U.S. travel to Cuba part of the global movement for ethical travel,” said Guild, adding that it is “particularly important in supporting Cuba’s goal to become a sustainable destination for mutual learning and benefit.”

RESPECT’s principles (see below) have been adopted by travel agencies, as well as environmental, artistic, musical, academic, legal, medical, religious and social justice organizations. Also included are sister-city and Cuban-American groups.

“We believe the time has come for a new relationship with Cuba,” commented Walter Turner, president of Global Exchange, another initiating RESPECT member, “one that starts with transparency and social responsibility, building trust along the way through respectful exchanges.”

The 17 Principles issued by the 65 founding organizations and some 35 individuals commit travelers, among other points, to “respect all Cubans, without regard to skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, political persuasion, abilities or economic status.”

Guild emphasized that the association has chosen this week to announce its founding, “a fitting way to commemorate the U.S.-Cuba opening begun at this time two years ago on December 17,” and said RESPECT is welcoming new institutional and organizational members. Those interested should write to



Responsible & Ethical Cuba Travel

An association of U.S. Travelers to Cuba 

Mission Statement

RESPECT (Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel) is a U.S. professional association uniting nonprofit entities, travel agents, tour operators and other travel service providers dedicated to practicing and promoting ethical and socially responsible travel to Cuba.


Members of the Association agree to uphold the following principles in organizing travel to Cuba:

  • We understand that the opportunity to visit Cuba is a step towards promoting mutual understanding and learning, through firsthand respectful exchanges, contributing to more informed, pro-active and responsible global citizenship on the part of all concerned.
  • We frame our Principles in the context of the internationally agreed-upon UN Sustainable Development Goals and respect for Cuba’s path to sustainable development, as determined by Cubans themselves.


  • “First do no harm” – the cornerstone of medical ethics worldwide – is fundamental to the principles that guide our organizations and those who travel to Cuba with us, respecting historical sites and natural areas and leaving them as we find them without disturbing their peace and sanctity .
  • We encourage our travelers – before they travel – to learn about Cuba and its history from a variety of sources, including Cuban sources.
  • We are committed to transparency in our relations with all Cuban entities and people, accurately and honestly representing ourselves and our intentions.
  • We affirm our commitment to respect all Cubans, without regard to skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, political persuasion, abilities or economic status.
  • We are committed to upholding non-exploitative relationships with Cuban entities and people, and respect for policies and laws enacted to prevent discrimination and exploitation of all kinds.
  • We promote healthy and respectful travel to Cuba and vehemently oppose “sex tourism” and associated businesses in any form, all of these prohibited by Cuban law.
  • We are committed to support Cuba’s efforts to confront climate change and protect the environment, actively contributing to conservation of energy and water resources, as well as protection of urban and rural landscapes, flora, fauna, beaches and marine life.
  • We will respect the authenticity of Cuban culture, its heritage, multiple roots and manifestations, as well as the cultural contributions of the Cuban people to world culture. We will consciously help to care for and maintain the country’s UNESCO-identified World Heritage Sites and other monuments and sites that constitute part of Cuba’s cultural patrimony.
  • We will abide by Cuban laws and regulations pertinent to our travel, including but not limited to immigration and customs regulations.
  • We are committed to protecting the health of our travelers and the Cuban people, by doing our part to keep infectious diseases and prohibited drugs from entering Cuba.
  • We encourage travelers to purchase products made in Cuba particularly from those who contribute to local development efforts, giving back to their communities.
  • We uphold the rights of travelers and their hosts in Cuba to be treated with respect and dignity, and commit ourselves to addressing issues of concern in this area through established mechanisms between the Association and its Cuban counterparts, in a spirit of constructive dialogue and joint reflection.
  • We believe all US citizens and residents have the right to travel to Cuba, and advocate lifting all US governmental travel restrictions to the island.
  • As an Association, we encourage our members’ efforts to support travel to Cuba by people of modest means, making the island a destination for the many, not just the few.
  • The Association supports Cuba’s contribution to the Caribbean as a zone of peace, and as a safe and peaceful destination for all travelers.



Bob Guild, Marazul (

Gail Reed, MEDICC (

Walter Turner, Global Exchange (

Founding members

Academic Travel Abroad Kate Simpson President

Altruvistas Malia Everette President

Backroads Tom Hale Founder and President

Caribbean Conservation Trust Gary Markowski Founder, Executive Dir.

Center for Cuban Studies Sandra Levinson Executive Director

Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) Martha Honey Executive Director

Classic Journeys Edward Piegza President

Common Ground Debbie Ledesma President

Cross Cultural Journeys Cilla Utne CEO

Cuba Cultural Travel Daniel Perez

Cuba Educational Travel Collin Laverty President

CubaMar Fernando Bretos

CubaPuentes Silvia Wilhelm President

Distant Horizons Amanda Bradshaw / Janet Moore

Educational Travel Alliance Mike Eizenberg President

Environmental Defense Fund Dan Whittle Senior Director

Global Arts/Media Vanessa Greene

Global Exchange Walter Turner President

Global Health Partners Bob Schwartz Executive Director

Global Links Kathleen Hower Director

Holbrook Travel Andrea Holbrook President

Insight Cuba Tom Popper President

International Expeditions Steve Cox Director

International Outreach Educational Rodrigo González

Center (Cuba Girasol)

Interplanner Alex Lopez President

ISRAM – Latour / PrideWorld Richard Kreiger President

Marazul Charters Armando Garcia President

Marazul Tours Mayra Alonso / Kendra Guild

Marazul Miami Travel Marisol Rodriguez President

MEDICC Nassim Assefi Executive Director

Mejdi Tours Scott Cooper President

Metamovements Anara Piers Frank Founder, Director

The Ocean Foundation Mark Spalding President

PlazaCUBA Alisa Froman Executive Director

Road Scholar JoAnn Bell Vice President

Row Adventures Peter Grubb Founder, President

Son Dos Alas – Cultural and Educational Travel Melisa Riviere, Ph.D. Founder

Wilson international Daniel French / Digna French

YourWorld Consultant Group, Inc. Willard Taylor

African American Studies Department – Merritt College Professor Siri Briggs Brown

Art Trips to Cuba Dr. Pedro Schuck Coordinator

Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organization Kate Hennessey / Spense Havlick

Center for Global Justice Cliff DuRand Coordinator

The Committee on Illinois/Scott Schwar


Cubamistad Cynthia Roberts

Diaspora Enterprise Solutions, LLC Kasara E. Davidson, Esq.

EcoCuba Network Pam Montanaro / Michele Frank Co-founders

Foundation for Normalization of US/Cuba Relations Elena Freyre President

Fund for Reconciliation and Development John McAuliff Executive Director

Hothouse Jazz Club, Chicago Marguerite Horberg Executive Director

IFCO/Pastors for Peace Gail Walker Director

Howard County Friends of Latin America Leslie Salgado Chairperson

MAAT Center Dr. Maisha Amen President

Madison Camaguey Sister City Association Ricardo Gonzalez

Making the RoadPrexy Nesbitt Executive Director

Minnesota Cuba Committee Marcy Shapiro Chairperson

National Lawyers Guild Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan President

National Network on Cuba

Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership Lisa Valanti Vice President

Richmond, Ca – Regla, Cuba Friendship Committee Rita Barouch Chairperson

Seattle – Cuba Friendship Committee John Waller

*SOL² ECONOMICS* Eric Leenson President

US Women and Cuba Collaboration Jan Strout / Cindy Domingo

Venceremos Brigade Malcolm Sacks / Rachael Ibrahim

The Wisconsin Medical Project Dr. Bernard Micke President

Witness for Peace Ken Crowley

Individual sponsors*

Marilyn Aguirre-Molina Professor of Public Health-CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy

Mavis Anderson Senior Associate, Latin America Working Group

Charles Auffant Professor, Rutgers University School of Law

Dr. Lisa Brock Academic Director, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo College

Leslie Cagan Former Coordinator, Cuba Information Project

Aviva Chomsky Professor of History / Coordinator of Latin American Studies, Salem State College

Otis Cunningham Chicago

Joelle Deloison

James Early Former Director, Cultural heritage Policy, Smithsonian Institute For Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Jill Soffiyah Elijah Attorney

Richard Feinberg University of California at San Diego

Alvaro Fernandez Editor/Publisher Progreso Weekly / Semanal

Jane Franklin Historian

Pat Fry Writer

Mariana Gaston Educator

Danny Glover Chair, TransAfrica Forum Board

Conner Gorry Cuba Libro

Robert Greenberg Educator

Barbara Honig Los Angeles

Ben Jones Artist, Professor Emeritus, Jersey City State Univ.

Valerie Landau

Walter Lippmann CubaNews

Iraida H. López, Ph.D. Ramapo College of New Jersey

Sheryl Lutjens Professor of Women’s Studies, College of Humanities, Arts, Sciences, Social And Behavioral Sciences, California State University San Marcos

Félix Masud History Department, DePaul University

Bill Montross National Lawyers Guild

Peter Orris, MD, MPH Professor and Chief of Service, Occupational and Environmental Medicine – University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System

Lisandro Pérez Professor and Chair, Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Louis A. Perez J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor History / Director/ Institute for the Study of the Americas University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

José Pertierra Attorney

Vanessa Ramos Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ)

Dr. Harold Rogers Chair, Afro American Studies, City College of Chicago

Nelson Valdes Professor, University of New Mexico

Cynthia l. Vidaurri Scholar

Karen Lee Wald Writer

*Organizations listed for identification purposes only