The Trump Administration announced yesterday that they were placing new restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. The restrictions will no longer allow the group educational and cultural trips known as “people to people” travel to the island. It will also impact the cruise lines traveling to that country.
There is a limited grandfathering provision that permits travel if the traveler already has completed one travel-related transaction, such as booking a tour or purchasing a flight prior to June 5. Additional exceptions are if the reason for the travel falls into one of the exemption categories they continue to be allowed, such as professional meetings, journalistic activities, or religious activities.
The American Society of Travel Advisors has issued a statement regarding this recent policy:
“Last month, ASTA expressed our disappointment with the Trump Administration's announcement that it plans to further restrict travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba as well as its activation of Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which allows U.S. nationals to file suits in U.S. courts against entities trafficking in confiscated property in Cuba.”
ASTA is reviewing the details of new Treasury and Commerce Dept. regulations announced today and will issue guidance to all members soon. Given the recent growth in legal U.S. travel to Cuba, ASTA is concerned about the potential for disruption from these policy changes, especially as they relate to the operation of cruise lines, airlines and hotel partners on the island.
A Carnival Cruise Line's spokesman said that “effective immediately, cruise ship travel is no longer allowed and we are required to cancel our visit to Havana. We have replaced our call to Havana with a replacement port to provide our guests with the best experience ashore.”
He goes on to say “we recognize that Havana is a unique destination and may have been the reason for the selection of this itinerary, and along with their apologies, guests will receive a $100 on-board credit posted to their Ship and Sail Account.”
Why is the government doing this? Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin said the measures are a response to what they call Cuba's “destabilizing role” in the Western Hemisphere, including support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. He goes on to say that they are providing a communist foothold in the region and propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua by fomenting instability, undermining the rule of law, and suppressing democratic processes. The intent is to keep U.S dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.
ASTA has been against this policy from the beginning. Their attitude is that the American people are the best ambassadors of U.S. values abroad, and should be allowed to freely travel to any destination they wish without restriction from their own government. The other side of this story is that if anything should happen to those U.S. citizens, then they would look to the government to bail them out. Like all differing issues, there's two sides to be considered.
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