The Trump administration announced new rules on travel and trade to Cuba Wednesday, impacting individual travel and banning patronage of some hotels and other tourism venues frequented by Americans.
The rules, which will go into effect Thursday, Nov. 9, eliminate the increasingly popular individual “people-to-people” educational travel category. Now, travelers will need to be a part of a group licensed by the Treasury Department, like they were prior to the Obama Administration’s freeing up Cuba travel two years ago.
Additionally, U.S. travelers are prohibited from staying at dozens of Cuban hotels, determined by the State Department to be connected to government security services. Some of the properties included under the ban include the Paradisus Río de Oro Resort & Spa, the Royalton Cayo Santa María, the Meliá Cayo Santa María and the Iberostar Ensenachos.
Americans also will be barred from patronizing a wide array of restaurants, stores and other enterprises determined to be owned wholly or in part by the Cuban military and security services. The Trump Administration is hoping U.S. travelers instead will stay with private citizens and eat in private restaurants.
Travelers returning from Cuba to U.S. ports and airports will be required to maintain proof of their activities in Cuba.
Travelers who had already purchased “at least one travel-related transaction” (e.g. a flight or lodging) prior to June 16, 2017, will be grandfathered in and can proceed with their trip.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), which has lobbied heavily for completely lifting restrictions on travel to Cuba, is concerned with the impact of the changes, especially since an estimated 300,000 Americans travel to Cuba each year.
“We believe in the fundamental principle of travel freedom, and that our government should not be in the business of telling Americans where to travel or not to travel,” said Eben Peck, ASTA executive vice president, advocacy. “The American people are the best ambassadors of U.S. values abroad, and should be allowed to freely promulgate those values and travel to any destination they wish without restriction from their own government.”
“Rather than shutting the door to this market 90 miles off our shores, we call on policymakers to enact legislation to do away with the statutory Cuba travel ban once and for all. While helping our members and their clients comply with the rules announced today, we will continue to advocate toward Cuba travel freedom and look forward to the day it becomes reality.
“While these regulations move us in the opposite direction of the full opening of the Cuba market ASTA has long pushed for, they did incorporate several items we did push for and, perhaps most importantly, the rules of the road are now set. We are confident that our cruise and tour partners and other travel industry stakeholders will adjust quickly to the new rules with an eye toward keeping Cuba as viable a destination for U.S. travelers (and travel agents) as possible. ASTA will continue to monitor implementation and respond to member queries as the situation unfolds.”