By Valarie D’Elia
Now that President Trump is tightening up loosened restrictions on travel to Cuba implemented by the previous administration, independent travelers have at least a 90-day grace period to visit the island nation before the rules change.
This goes for solo travelers who already have plans in place for a “people-to-people” visit or who make arrangements before the new Treasury Department regulations ban those types of trips. In the case of the latter, trips can extend beyond the effective date of the new regulations.
John McAuliff, Coordinator, Cuba-US People to People Partnership said by simply
eliminating individual visits to Cuba by Americans, Trump only went so far in reversing one of President Obama’s signature executive actions.
“They are not touching Cuban American travel, not touching remittances, they’re not touching the airlines, not touching cruises, all we know that they’ve done so far is stop the individuals traveling independently” said McAuliff.
Group travel on cruises and pricey organized tours on domestic air carriers will still be allowed under existing licenses, that stipulate record-keeping of people-to-people encounters, subject to an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) audit.
“By requiring group tours they limit US travelers to people in the higher economic sector who can afford them. The real objective of the old guard hard liners is to limit the number and variety of Americans who form their own conclusions about Cuba and the wisdom of the embargo.” said McAuliff.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, (R) a Cuban-American from Miami helped President Trump craft the revised rules on the U.S.-Cuba policy which is designed to prohibit financial dealings with the communist country.
“Easing restrictions on travel and trade don’t help the Cuban people, only enrich the Cuban regime,” said President Trump.
Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours, a guided tour company based in New York City, has 19 scheduled tours to Cuba for 2017-2018.
His guests and those of other tour operators usually stay in traditional hotels that might be financially connected to the Cuban military (Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A) and are in essence, funneling money to the government.
“Not all hotel properties have ties to GAESA, and it’s not 100% obvious to me at this point in time from reading the fact sheet that Americans will not be able to stay at GAESA hotels. This is certainly something we are going to monitor closely and make adjustments if necessary.” said Geronemus.
It remains to be seen if Airbnb, which markets thousands of home rentals in Cuba, will be a victim or a beneficiary of the recent policy shift. A recent tweet by Senator Rubio endorsed their use.
“Individual Americans can travel to #Cuba under Support for the Cuban people category but must use privately owned lodging like AirBnB.”
McAuliff, however, sees demand for home rentals & air travel being further eroded by the Trump administration’s directive.
“They destroy the market for Airbnb and undermine traffic for commercial airlines by ending the individual general license.”
Although he says he is disappointed that President Trump is impeding the progress spearheaded by the Obama administration, Geronemus’ tour operation should continue without much interference.
” So, the silver lining is that it’s still very much possible to travel to Cuba — the options have simply become more limited,” Geronemus said.