New Sanctions Put the Future of Cuba Travel in Question
During a speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, on Wednesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton said the Trump administration is imposing new sanctions on Cuba.
"We are also announcing that the Department of the Treasury will implement further regulatory changes to restrict nonfamily travel to Cuba," Bolton said. "These new measures will help steer American dollars away from the Cuban regime or its military and security services who control the tourism industry in Cuba."
Additionally, the Trump administration will reverse former President Obama's removal of restrictions on remittances, limiting US citizens to sending $1,000 per quarter to their family members in Cuba. Sanctions are being levied against Venezuela and Nicaragua as well, but the majority of Bolton's speech focused on Cuba.
As of December 2018, Cuba's tourism industry was rebounding after the country was hit by Hurricane Irma and strict travel restrictions. Though many US airlines have been cutting their service to Cuba due to diminished demand, cruises were on the rise.
"Cuba has opened brand-new itineraries for cruise lines and their passengers over the past three years, and more lines than ever before are offering cruises to the country," Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, told The Points Guy. "There’s been a steady interest in visiting the country by cruise, as cruising provides a comfortable and convenient way to visit Cuba."
It's unclear at this time how exactly the new sanctions will affect travel to Cuba, but President Trump seems determined to reverse the Obama administration's efforts to make Cuba more accessible to American travelers. In 2017, Trump set new rules in place prohibiting Americans from spending money in any state-run hotels or restaurants connected to the Communist government's military regime. Those rules also required Americans to keep detailed records of any financial transactions made in Cuba, which would be audited by the Treasury Department.
Visitors can still stay in Casa Particulares or Airbnbs, as long as they are run by private citizens and not the government.
The Miami Herald speculated that the new sanctions could, "signal the end of cruises, which started to operate during the Obama years because of an expansion of the categories of travel allowed," adding that the changes could impact air travel as well. The news has travelers who have already booked cruises to Cuba scrambling to figure out what to do.
"Right now, it’s a bit too early to say how the cruise lines will be affected by the administration’s decision to limit travel to Cuba, and what adjustments will be made to sailings scheduled beyond the implementation date for the new policy. Logistically, cruise lines do have the flexibility to adjust itineraries — adding or removing destinations as needed. The cruise lines we’ve spoken to have said they plan to proceed with their Cuba itineraries," McDaniel said.