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Trump administration halts cruises, people-to-people travel to Cuba

June 5, 2019

On June 4, 2019, the United States Department of Treasury issued amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations that will remove a travel authorization for people-to-people educational travel to Cuba. Educational travel is still one of the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba, but “group people-to-people educational travel” to the island has been removed. The new amendments went into effect immediately, and authorized travel to Cuba will only be permitted under the following categories:

  • Family visits
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Educational activities (including high school and college study abroad programs)
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions

These developments mean that airlines, cruise lines and other entities will not be able to accept further group bookings from tour operators that have packaged and sold travel to Cuba under the previously allowed—and most widely used—travel authorization for people-to-people educational travel.

This amendment to the CACR does, however, contain a grandfather clause that authorizes certain group people-to-people educational travel that was previously authorized, where the traveler has “already completed at least one travel-related transaction, such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation,” prior to June 5, 2019. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security amended its Cuba Export Administration Regulations to prohibit private and corporate aircraft, sailboats, fishing boats and other similar aircraft and vessels from going to Cuba.

According to a U.S. Department of State press release, the administration issued these amendments to the CACR in an effort to “hold the Cuban regime responsible for its repression of the Cuban people, its interference in Venezuela and its direct role in the man-made crisis led by Nicolas Maduro.” Similarly, in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets and Controls, the administration “has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime. These actions will help keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence and security services.”

The Trump administration has continued to call on Cuba to withdraw its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his regime. These restrictions, which were previously announced (with few details) by National Security Adviser John Bolton in April during a speech in Miami, are directly targeting the tourism industry in Cuba, which is a critical component of the island’s economy.

“This is a blow to the travel and tourism industry,” said NTA President Pam Inman. “NTA will continue to advocate for improved relations between the United States and Cuba, and we will also push for the restoration of people-to-people educational travel to the island nation.”

The full release from U.S. Department of the Treasury—as well as an FAQ document that was released by the Office of Foreign Assets and Control—can be found here.

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