Cuban businesses hurting after US imposes new travel restrictions

Americas Now

Alaska Airlines is ending its flights between the U.S. and Cuba. The company says demand is down – in part because of new U.S. restrictions on travel there.

The new rules are aimed at keeping Cuba’s military and intelligence-and-security services from profiting from U.S. tourists. But CGTN’s Michael Voss reports that the changes are also hurting small business owners.

The new restrictions imposed on communist Cuba are aimed at preventing the island’s government and in particular the military, which controls large segments of the Cuban economy, from benefiting from American tourism and trade.

From an upscale shopping mall to marinas and tour companies, the U.S. has blacklisted 180 military-owned entities. Most affected are dozens of tourist hotels where American visitors can no longer stay. This includes Kempinski, the island’s only five-star hotel. 

The port and special development zone at Mariel is another military-controlled enterprise, and U.S. companies will not be allowed to invest there.

The announcement came as U.S. President Donald Trump was visiting communist China, inspecting its troops and discussing business before moving on the communist Vietnam.

After former President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba, many here now wonder whether the Cold War is over for everyone except them.

“So this is the old speech, so let’s sanction Cuba, let’s impose new measures on Cuba to provoke changes,” complained Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Josefina Vidal. “Has it happened in the past? Never ever, so it hasn’t worked, it doesn’t work, it won’t work.”

These new sanctions may not make the Cuban government change its course. But a growing number of small business owners fear that they are the ones who will suffer.

Celia Mendoza has her own Havana-based travel agency.

“Over the past four months, we’ve had almost no income because our main clients are from the United States,” Mendoza said. “And if they’re not coming, I have to let go of most of my personnel.”

Julia de la Rosa owns a bed and breakfast business.

“If they decrease the number of North American travelers, we are going to be bankrupt,” said de la Rosa. “We are very small, so if I have problems, I will have to fire some of my 15 workers.”

U.S. businesses are also starting to lose interest. Earlier this month, just 13 American companies took stands at the annual Havana International Trade Fair, down by almost two-thirds compared to last year. Yet the Chinese, Russians and Europeans were all there in big numbers.