New Cuba Restrictions Mean More Work for Travel Advisors

by Jessica Montevago
New Cuba Restrictions Mean More Work for Travel Advisors

Cruise lines must now remove Cuban ports for current and future itineraries, while commercial flights appear to be unaffected. Photo: Shutterstock.com.


“Our clients who are traveling with groups of family and friends [to Cuba] will have the highlight of their cruise removed, dampening the excitement and enthusiasm for their vacation,” worried Char and Don Berger, owners of Cruising Company, Etc. & MouseEar Vacations.

They were among the many travel advisors with clients who have booked trips to Cuba, who learned on Tuesday that the Trump administration would ban the popular educational people-to-people group tours and cruise visits.

“Our travel advisors work very hard with our clients to design each travel experience to meet and exceed the client's expectations. Having their visit to Cuba denied after their plans are already set is a shame,” said Berger. “We are disappointed in the decision.”

The tightened restrictions were also met with confusion. While the U.S. Treasury Department said travelers who completed “at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5” will be allowed to fulfill their travel plans, it’s unclear what will happen to customers who have booked cruises to Cuba that were set to depart after that date.

All cruise lines must now remove Cuban ports for current and future itineraries, while commercial flights appear to be unaffected. Tour operators are also expected to have to change their offerings, though some operators will continue to offer programs that are compliant with new regulations.

Despite seeing early interest in Cuba after restrictions loosened under President Obama, Roxanne Boryczki, president of AZ Trails Travels, in Fountain Hills, Arizona, told Travel Market Report that demand began to wane after a year or so. So, while the decision won’t make or break her agency, “I am hopeful that in the future, things can once again normalize and the industry overall will be able to sell Cuba as a destination from the U.S.”

Char and Don Berger said their focus now is to prepare clients for the sudden change to their itineraries, which will cause a great deal of work for their dedicated advisors.

“We have many groups who already have their final documents, and each one will need reassurances, new information and soothing to understand why and how this decision is directly impacting their personal travel plans. This huge amount of additional work is already keeping our team from creating new vacations for their other clients, as it is demanding their immediate attention.”

Boryczki said her agency has a few clients booked on cruises with port calls in Cuba and she will wait “to see how that plays out, since they are already under deposit and final payment – hopefully, the cruise lines will be able to complete those sailings.” 

Letty Annett, president of Letty’s Cuba Travel & Tours, in Weston, Florida, said the new policy will further confuse Americans, if not deter them from traveling to Cuba altogether. University groups, academic research groups, journalists, and professional meetings will still be authorized to travel under the new rules.

In addition, Kendra Guild, smarTours’ director of product & operations, said there’s another avenue for travel advisors with clients who still wish to visit the country. Tour operator programs that fall under another category of “support for the Cuban people” will still be permitted.

While some travel will continue, Guild said the decision “won't only affect the Cuban economy on the whole, as well as the U.S. travel industry, but negatively impacts the small businesses and entrepreneurs in Cuba that the administration claims to support. People-to-people tour organizations eat at the paladars (private restaurants), support community projects and small businesses in Cuba.”

  3
  0
Tip of the Day

As travel advisors, we have to be curious. Curiosity leads to impactful connections that pave our road to success.

Jenn Lee, VP of Sales and Marketing, Travel Planners International

 

Daily Top List

Best Hotels in Toronto

1. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto

2. Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

3. Hazelton Hotel Toronto

4. Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

5. The St. Regis Toronto

Source: US News

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=7c7310a7-0591-e911-be17-782bcb66a2f2)

5 Reasons to Travel in Winter - and Where to Go

Travel advisors in-the-know offer their clients distinctive travel adventures at lower price points and with more personalized service during the winter months and off-peak season.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Why Travel Advisors Should Use Video to Grow Their Business
Why Travel Advisors Should Use Video to Grow Their Business

Sandra and Anthony McLemore share useful tips and tricks for incorporating video to attract clients.

Travel Agents Help Defeat Texas Tax Bill
Travel Agents Help Defeat Texas Tax Bill

Latest “whack-a-mole” travel agent tax is defeated, as ASTA and the travel industry gain momentum in minimizing new levies on advisors.

6 Ways to Promote Your Agency with Social and Other Highlights from TMP East
6 Ways to Promote Your Agency with Social and Other Highlights from TMP East

Industry experts also gave practical tips about how to sell to the Millennial market and how to upsell luxury travel product.

A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors
A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors

Maggie Fischer is on a mission to help travel agents see marketing as less like an expense, and more like a planned and measurable investment that puts income on their balance sheet.

A Privacy Tsunami May Be Coming to Retail Travel
A Privacy Tsunami May Be Coming to Retail Travel

Travel advisors should begin to think about how they will comply with the central concepts that are likely to be part of any state or federal privacy legislation.

Travel MarketPlace 2019 Opens in Toronto
Travel MarketPlace 2019 Opens in Toronto

ACTA’s Wendy Paradis, Virgin Voyages’ Tom McAlpin, CLIA’s Charles Sylvia, and more were on hand in Toronto on Wednesday to kick off the two-day show.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks