Chamber Cuba trip set for February
By Chris Messina
Napa Chamber of Commerce has experienced more than a century of change. As we embark upon our 125th anniversary in 2014, we acknowledge the success and leadership of the past, recognizing the challenges for an organization like ours to remain current and relevant for upcoming generations.
Napa itself is changing. A new boat dock on the Napa River brings the historic waterway back to life as a source of commerce for the city. New businesses, including Lucero Olive Oil and Vermeil Wine, brighten up a vital intersection of downtown. A large swath of Napa’s shopping corridor is about to be completely renovated and transformed into a destination in its own right.
At our recent Innovation Napa Valley event, Robert Eyler, PhD, director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University, spoke about the need for Napa to diversify its economy. Eighty-two percent of Napa County businesses are directly or indirectly involved with wine, tourism and hospitality, and 84 percent of job growth in the area is in wineries, hospitality and retail, he said.
Napa continues to grow in the American recovery, especially now that the wine industry is recovering with strength. While this fares well for Napa’s general economy, he urged innovative thinking toward future diversification to best maintain stability.
We’re growing with our community and making changes to stay fresh and current. We recently launched our new logo, brand and website with a renewed focus on our members and the community. We’re spotlighting the individuals who work behind the scenes to keep this great Valley running. You’ll see faces representing burgeoning businesses like The Thomas Restaurant in the historic Fagiani’s Bar alongside established icons like Shackford’s Kitchen Store. It’s about working together to create a Napa in which we can all have pride.
‘Innovating for today’
Our new vision and a mantra is steeped in nearly 125 years of history. The chamber has always represented innovative businesses, and that tradition continues as we enter our next chapter. Today, our members bring cutting-edge technology to industries across the board, from wineries integrating solar power to the small nonprofit historical society providing mobile device–enhanced walking tours of Napa.
Going forward, our members will receive enhanced benefits, targeted programming, and more personalized service. We’re revamping our event schedule for 2014 to include more opportunities for our members to interact with industry peers, reach out to new contacts and connect with new customers.
Travel with us to Cuba in 2014
One opportunity I’m especially excited about is our trip to Cuba in February. This once-in-a-lifetime adventure takes you through the magical culture and land of a seldom-traveled country.
One of our members, Suzanne Shiff, executive director of the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies, says of her recent trip to Cuba, “It was one of the most interesting trips and experiences I have had in all my travels.”
Please visit our new website at napachamber.com/cuba to learn more. We’re also having an informational meeting about the trip on Nov. 12 at the Napa Chamber office.
The trip is Feb. 14–21 and includes round-trip airfare from San Francisco, hotel and airport transfers, seven nights at a first-class hotel, 16 meals, a professional bilingual Cuban guide, Cuban travel visa and health insurance, and transportation by deluxe air-conditioned motorcoach.
Is travel to Cuba legal?
Yes. Traveling on a People-to-People itinerary operated under a specific license granted by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control , you are legally licensed and authorized to travel to Cuba. Before departing on your trip, we will give you a letter of authorization, stating that you have permission to travel under our license, to keep as part of your travel documents.
Please note that you will not be traveling to Cuba as a tourist. You will be traveling as part a People-to-People cultural exchange.
How do we get to Cuba?
We will be flying direct from Miami International Airport to Havana. The modern jet service/aircraft used is chartered and is not open to the public unless traveling on a licensed Cuba program.
Where will we be staying?
The program includes one night at the Miami Airport Hilton or the Miami Airport Sheraton. In Havana, you will be staying at the four-star Melia Havana Hotel and on some departures the four-star Melia Cohiba Hotel may be used. All accommodations are subject to change, and all passengers should be flexible due to the tremendous demand by American travelers to this destination and limited hotel availability.
How do I reserve a space?
Deposits are $500 per person and due with your completed Reservation Form to secure a seat on the program. All space is on a first-come, first-served basis, and we highly recommend signing up early due to such high demand. Departures will sell out quickly.
Who are the guides?
All programs begin in Havana, where guests meet with their professionally trained English-speaking Cuban tour guide. Your guide will work with you to ensure each individual has the most rewarding experience possible. The guide is trained in the history of the island and known throughout the cities and towns you will explore. The guide will provide you with direct access to the people, places and cultural visits outlined in your itinerary and will introduce you to the real Cuba, its people and culture.
You will be met with smiles and welcoming arms everywhere.
Do we travel with a group?
Our small-group-sized departures provide our travelers with the opportunity to enjoy interactions with the people who know the country best — the local people. Chances are you’ll also travel with like-minded individuals who will share in the experiences and culture of Cuba.
Chris Messina, IOM, ACE, CDP, is president and chief executive officer of Napa Chamber of Commerce (707-226-7455, napachamber.com).
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