US guidelines for visiting Cuba impacting travel industry

Global Business

US guidelines for visiting Cuba impacting travel industry

This month the U.S. published new guidelines for Americans looking to travel to Cuba – reflecting U.S. President Donald Trump’s step back from the policies opened by his predecessor.

The new restrictions preclude most independent trips to the island nation and that’s having an impact on the travel industry.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports some travel providers are faring better under the new rules.

Cuban American Chef Douglas Rodriguez is known as the Godfather of Nuevo Latino cuisine. While getting ready for the holidays at his restaurant in Florida, we caught up with him to talk about the new restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba.

He’s been leading culinary tours to the island since 2013. For him, these restrictions actually help his business.

“In 2014 I did six tours, 2015 I did six tours, 2016 is when Obama passed the law and the tour business went down because people suddenly thought they can book an Airbnb and spend a weekend in Havana without a tour guide.”

But that’s not legal anymore. As part of the U.S. Trump administration’s new regulations – Americans can no longer book independent trips.

Peter Sanchez, also a travel operator and CEO of Cuba Tours and Travel says that his company can make it easier for travelers to explore Cuba under the new guidelines.

“Now, people used to go education on their own, now they are going to have to go with a company like mine that sets up a program, monitors to ensure that they do their program, gives them an itinerary that if they were ever asked by the Treasure Department, they can provide an itinerary of their activities.”

The cruise industry is also seeing a boost from the new restrictions.

For Bruce Nierenberg, President and CEO of Victory Cruise line, President Trump just made cruising to Cuba more attractive than ever.

“Ironically, if the public were capable of looking past the smoke screen of the Trump announcements in June, it actually makes cruising a better way to go than it was before the announcements. We provide the tours, the guides, everything is all certified, and we give them a certificate signed by yours truly at the end of the cruise.”

But the benefits do not extend across the entire travel sector. U.S. airlines are dropping from the Cuba market. Demand is down. Not everyone likes to travel in groups and feel they’re being monitored.

In addition, several companies told CGTN that the recent allegations of sonic attacks on U.S. personnel in the Cuban embassy have American travelers on alert.

But what they say one thing hasn’t changed: Americans’ interest in traveling to Cuba. So, the lure of Cuba is still somewhat of a forbidden fruit for American travelers.