As the country’s latest position on travel to Cuba was revealed — kind of — Friday afternoon, tentative reactions from industry insiders started to roll in.
There was disappointment, frustration, confusion, some relief, and a lot of caution that the full picture would not be known still for weeks or months. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings even labeled Trump’s Cuba travel policy revisions “a win for the cruise industry … ”
The biggest changes for travelers is that the U.S. will prohibit Americans from undertaking individual people-to-people trips to Cuba, and restrictions will be placed on doing business with hotels and attractions run by elements of the Cuban government.
President Donald Trump formally announced the policy Friday at a speech in Miami, couching it as the fulfillment of a campaign promise, the day after White House officials briefed reporters.
“The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people,” Trump said. “They only help the Cuban regime.”
Flights and cruises will be mostly left intact, but new restrictions will block business transactions with Cuban military enterprises.
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control still must come up with regulations to add fine print to broad policy, which will give travel companies more to work with.
More than a handful of U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Delta, as well as multiple cruise operators, including Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, tout itineraries to Cuba. Five Expedia brands, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz and CheapTickets, started offering hotel bookings and private accommodations in Cuba last month, and the Priceline Group’s Booking.com has operated a Cuba business for some time. TripAdvisor is authorized to facilitate bookings to Cuba, and its editorial content about accommodations and activities there have been available for some time.
Overall, observers said getting rid of the option for individuals to choose people-to-people travel will likely have a wide impact as travelers who want to engage on that kind of trip will be forced to plan with an organizing group. The Obama administration made it possible for individuals to plan their own people-to-people trips in March of 2016.
Matthew Aho, a special advisor on Cuba at law firm Akerman, said that announcement last year came as airlines were promoting the launch of regularly scheduled commercial flights.
“The truth is that the only way to fill those flights was to make it possible for a lot more Americans to go to Cuba in a pain-free way,” he said. “I think that changing this policy really raises some serious questions about the viability, commercially, of regularly scheduled flights. It’s going to lead to a reduction in the number of Americans who are traveling to Cuba, it’s going to make it much more expensive.”
Aho also pointed out that spending a trip with a large group on big tours makes meaningful interactions with Cubans much more difficult.https://skift.com/2017/06/19/travel-companies-disappointed-pleased-or-studying-trumps-cuba-changes/