President Trump is rolling back President Obama’s loosening of Cuba’s embargo and has announced new travel restrictions and business restrictions for Cuba. The change in policy will make person-to-person travel more difficult. It also will likely reduce the number of Americans who are visiting Cuba for personal tourism. The announcement today warns of future changes but does not currently change any policies. Instead, the directive orders the Treasury and Commerce departments to begin within 30 days to write new regulations that reverses some of Obama’s policies.
Cuba Travel Changes
If you already have a trip to Cuba booked do not worry. In a FAQ document provided by the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), those with travel plans will not be affected by the policy changes. In addition, airlines and cruise ships can continue to serve Cuba. Most importantly, if you have made any travel arrangements prior to June 16, 2017 your entire trip can continue.
Per the OFCA:
The announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations. Provided that the traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to the President’s announcement on June 16, 2017, all additional travel-related transactions for that trip, whether the trip occurs before or after OFAC’s new regulations are issued, would also be authorized, provided the travel-related transactions are consistent with OFAC’s regulations as of June 16, 2017.
The biggest change in policy is that US Citizens cannot do business with any Cuban Military or Government business entity. Since the Cuban Military arm GAESA controls most of the tourism sector including many bars, restaurants and hotels, the new directive makes most Cuban business transactions illegal for US citizens. It also puts Marriott’s Four Point Hotel and second hotel project in jeopardy. GAESA manages the Four Points and is will manage Marriott’s second property.
Group travel regulations do not change. Go to Cuba and support local business or join a tour of Cuba. When in Cuba, eat at paladares, or local restaurants to avoid GAESA. Cruises operate in group tours; therefore, cruises should not see any major changes as group tour travel is still legal. In addition, companies such as AirBnB which work with locals will continue operations. The regulations are trying to defund the government and put money in the pockets of locals. Or at least that is what the President is claiming.
GAESA does not run Cuba’s airports, or its cruise ship terminals. U.S. airlines and cruise operators might not be directly affected by the policy change, but GAESA does control most of the island’s marinas.
The Cuban Military saw this coming and per the Washington Post is already reorganizing. It is unclear what will change, but the military may just be relinquishing rights to GAESA. If this happens, Marriott will continue to serve Cuba. Hopefully this means travel and business in Cuba will continue, business as usual.
Final Thoughts – This is Fishy Business
It is good to hear that the change in policy is not a Cuba Travel Ban. The back-paddle is annoying and does put many travelers on edge. I would say, if you want to go to Cuba, Go! People have been traveling to Cuba for years from other parts of the World, and you too should!
Finally, one must wonder what Trump’s motives are. Could Trump be changing the policy because he does not want to miss the Cuba travel boom himself? As President, Trump’s company cannot pursue foreign deals. Thus, no Trump Hotel can be built in Cuba during his presidency. The new regulations may also prohibit his competitors from building hotels in Cuba and force Marriott/Starwood out. Is the change in policy really in America’s best interest or Trump’s?
In the meantime, continue to book travel to Cuba and explore the island! There are still 12 legal reasons why you can travel to Cuba.