The American Association of Travel Agents (ASTA) said it is “disappointed” with the Trump Administration’s decision to tighten up travel regulations for individual Americans visiting Cuba, the country’s leading advocate for retail travel professionals said in a statement Friday.
“ASTA is disappointed with the Trump Administration’s announcement that it plans to turn back the clock on expanded travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president & CEO. He cited the increase in travel that has benefitted agents and other ASTA members since the Obama administration loosened rules in 2016.
“For our members, much will depend on the details of new Treasury and Commerce Department regulations coming in the next few months, and ASTA plans to fully participate in that process. While challenges remain in terms of Cuba’s readiness for large volumes of American travelers, the past few years have seen a growth in business for U.S. travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, cruise lines, hotel and other travel companies. That progress is now at risk,” Kerby said.
Prior to the announcement, the industry was estimating 400,000 Americans would visit Cuba this year. The Trump Administration's new proposed rules will eliminate “people-to-people” travel, which allows American travelers to book individual trips; U.S. citizens will now have to look to group tours to visit Cuba. Additionally, individuals may have a harder time proving their visit falls under one of 12 authorized categories such as a religious, journalistic or artistic activity.
“ASTA continues to believe that the American people are the best ambassadors of U.S. values abroad, and should be allowed to freely 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 today is a setback, we will continue to advocate toward Cuba travel freedom and look forward to the day it becomes reality,” it said.
Carnival Corporation, meanwhile, said it is “pleased” that the policy changes “will allow our ships to continue to sail to Cuba" and plans to expand its offerings.
"We will review the extent of the tightening of the travel rules, but our guests have already been traveling under the 12 approved forms of travel to Cuba since we undertook our historic first cruise to Cuba more than a year ago," it said. Its experience in Cuba this past year "has been extremely positive. We look forward to the new cruises being planned for Cuba with Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line. We also have requested approval for our other brands to travel to Cuba. Travel brings people and cultures together, so we are excited about the upcoming cruises to Cuba for our guests.”