Trump Cuba Travel Changes Explained

The Trump Cuba travel changes announced June 16th, 2017, are still a big unknown.

What is known about the proposed changes is in the written Presidential Memorandum. What is unknown is what is to be written over the next few months outlining all the travel and business changes.

Trump Cuba Travel Changes
Trump Cuba Changes June 16. (Bernie Woodall/Reuters)

What we do know is what hasn’t been changed, and this is significant. We are not just going back to the old rules. His Presidential Memorandum  can be read here.  The two biggest changes seem to be making more difficult for individuals going to Cuba, and to keep from US dollars going to government owned businesses.

A lot of Cuba/American rules remains the same and this is encouraging.  What remains unchanged is shown below:

  • U.S. and Havana embassies remain open.
  • US Commercial airline flights and cruises can continue.
  • US visitors can still bring back rum and cigars from the island.
  • Americans can still send unlimited amount of dollars to Cubans.
  • The elimination of the old Wet-Foot-Dry-Foot policy remains unchanged…it will not be re-instated.
  • The embargo, of course, remains in place.
  • A couple of mutually beneficial agreements on drug trafficking and oil spill response remain in place.

So…these are good, and leave in place a lot of what President Obama had opened up.

What does change, however, is important. In trying not to support the government and thus the military, he is cutting back unfettered U.S. citizen visits to Cuba and eliminate trade that enriches the government and military. He wants to direct American dollars to individually owned businesses.

Trump Travel Changes

Whereby under Obama the 12 categories of allowed travel were loosely enforced. Most people traveled under the “people-to-people” category under the honor system. Now, under Donald Trump, these travel categories will be audited and enforced.

This means that group tours by licensed tour operators will be allowed (as has always been allowed), but individual travel will be tougher. These rules are yet to be written, so who knows what it will be? Group tours only? Or more stringent requirements for individual travel? My guess is the latter.

I am sure the group tour operators are hoping that they will again be in charge.

The big change in my view is how commercial trade between U.S. and Cuba will be conducted. Trump seems to be okay with our dollars going to individual businesses  in Cuba, but definitely not to those that would benefit the military and security efforts. He has asked for a list of “forbidden entities” to be published.

My conclusion for Americans traveling to Cuba:

You can always book a tour or take a cruise ship to Cuba. It looks like these will remain unchanged. You have someone taking you around and will book “allowed” housing and restaurants.

I still recommend traveling on your own. If you stay at casas de particulares, rooms for rent by individuals (I.e. AirBnB and others) not the big state-owned hotels you’ll be money mainly to individuals. Eat at paladars, individually owned restaurants, not state-owned restaurants. These should fulfill the requirements to not spend at government run hotels, etc.

I also suggest (as has always been required but not enforced) that you keep a log of where you stayed and ate, and where you visited on your own “people-to-people” tour. Remember, “tourist” travel has never been allowed…no long vacations on the beach. Visit a lot of places and people.

We will know more in the future about Trump Cuba travel changes, but I am optimistic that we will find a way to keep traveling and helping the Cuban people, without further enhancing the socialist government.

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