Through the years
Cuba Direct started as a husband-and-wife team in 2002. Though based in London, providing holidays in Cuba meant dealing with severely limited internet communication and a whole lot of red tape. Despite the pressures of juggling Cuban bureaucracy, learning on the job and a new arrival in the family, Cuba Direct grew year after year.
Many years have passed and many things have changed, but not everything. Founder and Managing Director Miguel – a Havana native – still likes to get down and dirty whenever he is in Cuba. Visiting the island at least three time a year, he cycles, drives, hops on a bus or in an almendron to see Cuba from a variety of perspectives. We constantly check on, improve on and share knowledge - one of the most important ways that we maintain our edge.
This is our story.
A Unique Product - One Destination, One Company
Miguel and Sandra spot a gap in the market. Though several travel companies sell trips to Cuba, they lack the destination expertise to offer a complete Cuban travel experience. Tour operators tend to focus on either all-inclusive beach breaks or non-stop cultural itineraries. The ambitious Cuban expats launch Cuba Direct, providing hand-crafted holidays to Cuba that combine enriching cultural encounters with plenty of time to unwind by the sea. They also offer specialised itineraries, such as birdwatching, fishing and salsa trips, taking advantage of Cuba’s natural and artistic bounty. All in one destination, co-ordinated by one company.
A Unique Company
Cuba Direct grows quickly and organically. We didn’t pay our way to the top but grew from word-of-mouth because our product is better, thanks to our specialist knowledge and constant efforts to improve.
As our client base grows, so does our team. Miguel and Sandra begin the process of seeking out Cuba experts to collaborate with. They end up with a team of Cubans and Brits, all of whom share a passion for Cuba.
A Rock-Solid Operation in Cuba
Keen to offer clients prompt support and customer care on holiday, we station reps, a customer services team, a reservations team and guides on the ground in Cuba.
Cuba is a wonderful destination, but it's complex and presents its own unique challenges. An important part of the Cuba Direct service is that we resolve any issues our client may experience on the spot. There’s little point in trying to deal with complications once clients have returned home. Bumps in the road should be smoothed straight away, allowing our customers to get on and enjoy their holiday.
We ensure that we understand our clients’ expectations from the outset. This helps us meet these expectations, or manage them if needs be. In my eyes, there is a Cuba for everyone but sometimes clients expect a Cuba that doesn’t exist. Our job is to provide authentic Cuban experiences that our clients will love.
2002 - 2005
Growing, Learning and New Ventures
We enter an important period of learning, making mistakes and nearly going bust! Our new service, Visa Cuba, saves us from disaster. We begin selling Cuban visas online, making us the first company in the world to do so.
2006 - 2010
Providing our services in Cuba not only enables us to deliver a better service to our clients but to give something back to the country. We employ dozens of Cubans and help the island's tourism industry grow, a vital source of income for Cuba. We begin working more and more with the nation’s fledgling private sector so that our clients’ money goes into the pockets of ordinary Cubans, helping to transform lives.
A Packed Portfolio
With our business back on track, we begin the process of expanding our portfolio to include more excursions, services and accommodation options. Perhaps the most important addition is the inclusion of casas particulares, private homestay accommodation in Cuba. As expected, our clients love the experience of staying in friendly family-run B&Bs; they offer great value for money, a superb service and grant a wonderful insight into Cuban culture.
I’ve found that combining hotels and casas particulares makes for a perfect trip. Clients can spend three nights in a historic Havana hotel, relishing its glitz and glamour, before experiencing the warmth of the Cuban people at a family home in Viñales. Mixing up accommodation provides a great overview of the country.
2012 - 2013
The LUKAS Awards
We become the proud recipients of the LUKAS Tour Operator of the Year award. We’re extremely proud of this achievement as winners are decided by the votes of their clients, not an industry panel. The award signals that the all hard work we’ve put into our customer service provision is really paying off!
Virgin Atlantic Gold Achievement Award
We scoop another prize, this time it’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Gold Achievement Award. It’s great to get recognition from those we work with as well as our customers.
Getting Bigger and Better
We continue to grow steadily, taking thousands of clients on holiday to Cuba every year. This growth enables us to get better and better. We expand our Cuba team and station reps in Varadero, catering to our sun-worshiping clients.
Growth is only good if your customer service grows with it. We strive tirelessly to maintain our high standards. Our rep to client ratio, which is the highest of any British tour operator in Cuba, helps us to do that.
Our Man in Havana
As part of our efforts to match our growth in clients with a growth in customer service, we employ our new Head of Representation, Martin Payne. A Brit in-love with Cuba (and a Cuban woman), he was headhunted because of his deep understanding of Cuba’s idiosyncrasies as well as the expectations of our customers.
Reviews and Recommendations
We discover that over half our clients come to us because Cuba Direct was recommended to them by a friend, family member or colleague – a great sign. We continue to amass positive reviews on Feefo and receive their Trusted Merchant Accreditation.
Cuba Direct was able to create our dream holiday linking our budget and interests – our travel consultant took all the hard work out of booking a tailor-made holiday. We would definitely use Cuba Direct again, highly recommend them
New Venture: Travel Direct
We launch our new sister brand, Travel Direct, to offer a host of exciting destinations outside Cuba.
Reps in Viñales and Trinidad
We continue to increase representation across the island, stationing reps in Viñales and Trinidad. Our friendly team is now able to provide face-to-face support in these popular destinations, favourites amongst our staff and clients.
Thawing Conflicts, Opening Doors
As U.S. and Cuba relations improve dramatically, more Americans can travel to the Caribbean’s most enigmatic isle. We begin offering people-to-people travel programmes and send our first American clients to Cuba.
One Happy Family
Despite a lot of changes over the years, we remain a family company and hold our initial values dear. We want our clients to enjoy authentic travel experiences and see all that this wonderful island has to offer, just like we did back in 2002. When things don’t go as planned, we still take it personally.