New travel restrictions for U.S. citizens travelling to Cuba

President Trump has enforced new trade restrictions and a travel ban for U.S. citizens travelling to Cuba.

As promised in his campaigning President Trump will reverse the softening of rules on Cuba that President Obama began.

New travel and trade restrictions will end any hopes that Cuba can legally become a medical tourism destination for individuals or groups of American citizens.

Diplomatic relations and the commercial flights policy will not be changed, but travel to Cuba will be again restricted, to restrict money flowing from the USA to Cuba.

Trump’s directive calls for an effective ban of individual tourist travel to Cuba, as well as an absolute prohibition on U.S. companies conducting any business with entities controlled by GAESA, a state-run organization that has strong ties to the Castro family and military regime that operates in a majority of the Cuban economy.

Obama’s policy ended a 50 years old embargo that failed to destroy the communist regime in Cuba. Any new measures will affect the future of Cuba but based on decades of embargos, they will do little to change Cuban policy.

Trump’s announced changes do not take effect until new regulations have been agreed with and issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The U.S. Department of State will issue a list of organisations that businesses cannot deal with. The individual travel ban is immediate.

In 2016 Cuba received over 4 million international visitors, a growth of over 1 million in only five years. Tourism is one of the key economic sectors in Cuba, supporting many livelihoods and drawing significant interest from foreign investors.

Taleb Rifai of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expresses disquiet; “This represents a step backwards and a strong attack on the freedom of travel. This decision will have limited impact on Cuba’s tourism development, yet it will substantially affect the US economy and American jobs. Many US companies have started to invest in and do business with Cuba in view of the immense potential of Cuban tourism.

The only certainty is that any agency offering medical tourism in Cuba to Americans will be breaking U.S. law.