Washington, DC—Yesterday, the Trump administration issued new travel restrictions that will severely limit the ability of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. The Department of the Treasury removed the authorization for group educational trips to Cuba, known as “people-to-people” travel, a category under which several hundred thousand people traveled to Cuba in 2018. In addition, the Department of Commerce ended the permission for passenger vessels (including cruise ships), recreational vessels, and private non-commercial aircraft to carry licensed travelers to Cuba.
The Trump administration has recently reversed the policy of engagement with Cuba, even though polls show that the majority of Americans support lifting the embargo and expanding travel and trade with Cuba. The decision to restrict non-family travel to Cuba will impact not only Cuban businesses, but the U.S. tourism and travel sector as well. A new survey from the private sector in Cuba found that the economic success of Cuban entrepreneurs is strongly tied to US travel to the island. In reaction to these developments, Geoff Thale, Vice President for Programs at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), issued the following statement:
“Travel to Cuba is already restricted, especially for those who aren’t Cuban-Americans visiting family. U.S. citizens don’t need government permission to travel abroad to almost anywhere but Cuba. Now, the White House has added a new restriction, that will make it even more difficult for U.S. citizens to visit, learn about, and experience Cuba for themselves. This is a vindictive move, that imposes on the freedoms of U.S. citizens, damages our own travel industry, tries to hurt the Cuban economy and punish the Cuban people. Congress ought to step in and defend the rights of the American people, and support a more sensible policy of engagement.”