When the White House announced that President Trump would be reversing the Obama administration’s policy changes pertaining to Cuba, many in the travel industry were concerned. Tour operators and cruise lines have made commitments and investments in Cuba travel, and many travel agents have deposited trips for clients already on the books for 2017 and 2018. The Trump administration’s plans could adversely affect a lot of businesses.
President Trump gave his speech in Miami on Friday, June 16, outlining his administration’s plans for rolling back changes the that had been made in the past three years. The president does not intend to close the recently re-opened U.S. embassy in Cuba, but he did say that the travel policy was going to be more stringent.
In a nutshell, the Obama administration policy had relaxed people-to-people travel so that individual travelers could “self report” their qualifying activities in Cuba. According to the Miami Herald, “under Trump’s rules, travelers will be subject to a Treasury Department audit of their trip to ensure they fall under one of the permitted categories. Educational trips and so-called ‘people-to-people’ group exchanges will fall under greater scrutiny, with educational groups once again having to travel with a guide from a U.S. organization sponsoring the trip, a requirement the Obama policy had effectively eliminated. Unlike under Obama, individuals will no longer be able to travel under the ‘people-to-people’ category.”
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Commerce Department will have 90 days to draft the new rules per the administration’s directive.
How will cruises to Cuba be affected?
Currently the ability to cruise to Cuba does not appear to be affected by the new edict from the White House. All of the cruise lines released statements shortly after Trump’s speech. The message was roughly the same thing: that their cruises to Cuba would not be impacted by the proposed changes. “Our cruises will continue to be delivered in accordance with U.S. to Cuba travel regulations, and we will keep our guests and travel partners informed as we get any additional information.” They also reiterated that all of their Cuban shore excursions were OFAC compliant, and they will continue to ensure that future excursions also meet the OFAC regulations.
Many travel agents however are concerned. Although guided tour tours and cruises will continue to provide travel opportunities to Cuba, they fear that the new restrictions will cause clients to hesitate about traveling to Cuba in general. Agents can assuage clients’ fears by booking them on approved group tours or cruises.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.