Travel Pulse: Cuban Businesses Urge Trump to Allow Individual Travel

Travel Pulse

A handful of Cuban entrepreneurs penned a letter to the U.S. Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce, outlining several policy recommendations for President Donald Trump's administration.

Trump revealed his National Security Presidential Memorandum on Cuba policy last month, partially rolling back some Obama-era policies that eased restrictions on American travel to the island nation in an effort to aid the country's emerging private sector.

While Americans can still travel to Cuba under certain licenses, getting there is expected to be more challenging under Trump's policy

"First, we recommend policymakers allow U.S. travelers to continue to travel as individuals to Cuba. U.S. travel to Cuba directly benefits private entrepreneurs and their families," the business leaders wrote. "The vast majority of U.S. individual travelers (vs. groups) frequent private lodging, restaurants and transportation services."

"Fewer travelers will have a direct negative impact on businesses in the hospitality sector as well an indirect negative impact on connected enterprises."

The entrepreneurs urged the administration to restore the ability for U.S. travelers to participate in self-directed people-to-people educational travel and to clarify that individuals who support the Cuban private sector by using private goods and services are eligible to visit.

They also want the U.S. government to clearly define new regulations so potential travelers aren't discouraged from visiting Cuba.

According to a recent study, three-quarters of U.S. travelers stayed in private B&Bs in Cuba. What's more, 99 percent say they ate at a privately-owned restaurant.

"If President Trump is serious about helping Cuba's private sector, he will listen to Cuban entrepreneurs. Today, they are telling him that additional regulations on Americans who wish to travel to Cuba will harm their businesses and harm Cuba's private sector," said Engage Cuba President James Williams in a statement.

"Americans are staying in private B&Bs, eating at private restaurants and taking private taxi cabs. Following President Trump's Cuba directive, Cubans across the island are concerned that a rollback of engagement will hurt the Cuban people." 

"President Trump’s new policy has created confusion and fear among U.S. travelers and Cuban entrepreneurs,” said Collin Laverty, President of Cuba Educational Travel, in a statement. "We should be promoting the flow of people, ideas, goods and services, not pumping the brakes.”

In addition to freeing up U.S. travel to Cuba, the business leaders encouraged the Trump administration to make it easier for Cubans to open U.S. bank accounts, ease access to U.S. exports and continue a bilateral dialogue.