Trump's Cuba Travel Policy Leaves Heads Scratching
Andrew Bender , CONTRIBUTOR
I delve into the business of business travel, and often the fun too.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Just as travel and tourism to Cuba from the United States was heating
up, President Donald Trump made an announcement last Friday that will
cool it down, probably way down. He said he was "canceling the last
administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba."
While it's not exactly a cancellation, what it is is, at this stage,
"There are a zillion contradictions," says Julia Sweig, senior research
fellow and Cuba expert at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
at the University of Texas. "There is no policy or legal coherence to
what they have announced."
For example, American tour operators, cruise ships and airlines will
still technically be able to operate into Cuba, and U.S. citizens can
still purchase and bring home Cuban products like rum and cigars; both
of these were off limits before the Obama administration relaxed rules
in 2014. But the new policies put in two important restrictions:
- Make it illegal for Americans to patronize facilities related to the
Cuban military, and
- Make individual travel to Cuba far more difficult for Americans.
Currently this is through a program known as people-to-people.
The military issue first. "The state-run tourism organization, GAVIOTA,
is owned by the Cuban military, and it owns the majority of tourism
infrastructure on the island," says Marguerite Fitzgerald, a partner at
the Miami office of Boston Consulting Group in Miami and the author of
BCG's report on Cuban tourism. "Americans will not be allowed to stay in
Cuban hotels, take Cuban buses or rent cars."
Meanwhile, the cutback in individual tourism will mean that Cuba's
growing network of home stays will take a hit. Airbnb says that 560,000
guests have paid some $40 million to private hosts around Cuba since the
company entered the market in April 2015. This in a country where,
Airbnb says, the average monthly wage is $30. This year, Cuba has been
Airbnb's ninth-largest market for Americans heading abroad.
The announcement from the White House directs the Departments of
Commerce and the Treasury to come up with regulations within 30 days.
But, Sweig says, "I expect that when the regulators try to write the new
regulations, they will become mired down."
"I guess the Trump people will publish a map of Cuba with all of the
places Americans won't be able to go to buy a bottle of water, to sleep,
etc.," she adds.
Meanwhile, tour and travel operators are in limbo. "It remains to be
seen which travel companies, cruise lines and tour providers will be
able to successfully navigate the new regulations and which will cease
their operations in Cuba," says Jennine Cohen, managing director for the
Americas at San Francisco-based Geographic Expeditions, which has
operated tours to Cuba for 17 years.
"GeoEx works primarily with small and charming B&Bs, which have no
connection to the Cuban military and should not be affected," she says.
More long term, Cohen says, "As we have successfully operated trips on
and off since 2000, we have adhered to [the U.S. government's] changing
policies and enforcement over time and will continue to do so."
Source: Trump's Cuba Travel Policy Leaves Heads Scratching -
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