How are Trump’s new regulations affecting travel to Cuba?
Friday, July 14, 2017
The travel and tourism department had found a new channel of revenue when then-President Barack Obama eased the decades-long restrictions on Cuban travel and tourism in March 2016.
Intrepid travelers started planning trips to the sprawling tobacco plantations and historical colonial cities for the upcoming seasons, while Cuban spas and resorts began attracting fun-loving tourists in hordes. Hotels spruced up their services, Airbnb added a significant number of Cuban homes to their repertoire, and a few American airlines began running direct flights to Cuba.
This nascent industry was just about to see the fruits of labor when President Donald Trump announced new restrictions that will once again make Cuban trips confusing and restrictive, thereby dampening the fervor of American tourists.
Here are some of the points to note if you are planning a trip to the Cuban soil:
- You can either stay in a hotel run by civilian Cuban companies or on a boat, but not in a facility run by the Cuban military.
- You can always book a cruise since they will be unaffected by the ban.
- Americans can still fly to Cuba on a commercial flight, though the number of such flights from the U.S has been scaled back.
- Most importantly, Americans must travel in organized groups only. An organization that holds a license to take groups to Cuba is the best bet. Individual travelers may have to apply to the Treasury Department for a license to travel.
- Americans will still need a tourist card to enter the country, but now it will be provided as a part of the package by a licensed tour operator.
- The Treasury Department will strictly enforce the law regarding travel to Cuba, keeping tabs on which Americans go to Cuba or what they do there, including other routine audits.
- Those who have already booked a trip prior to the new ban can go ahead and complete their trip. This will be applicable for individuals and even for military-run hotel groups or restaurants.
As the industry scrambles to adjust and make new arrangements for their clients, travelers have quickly realized that a Cuban vacation is going to be a lot more expensive than they thought. American airline companies, which initially introduced several direct flights, have scaled back due to insufficient demand. Now, these existing flights may see further cuts, thereby raising the travel costs.
The Trump administration reversal will not only dampen the spontaneity of travel, but it could also hurt small businesses. Only the bigger travel and hospitality groups can now afford to offer group travel packages, and these won't come cheap either. Airbnb and other private house bookings will see hurdles since they must overcome more loopholes than before.
In his speech, Trump announced that the reversal would be strict and immediate, but USA Today reported that the regulations could take months or years to be reversed. Still, the announcement has been enough to dampen the fervor. With tour operators now facing stricter government audits, overall demand for Cuban tourism will see a fall.
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