What’s the deal with trips to Cuba? This is a question I am asked quite often, due to new rules on Cuban travel introduced by the Trump administration and a current Charity Cruise to Cuba that I have yet to cancel. If you are reading this, you are probably seeking clarity to the same question. The answer to this question is simply: it depends. It depends on the category of travel. President Trump makes good on his campaign promise, to “expose the crimes of the Castro regime” and once again reverse any policy that the Obama administration has put in place. The original “People to People” license for Americans willing to travel to Cuba is now replaced with a category called “Support for Cuban People” license. This eliminates individual self-directed travel.
The New Rule
The new rules which seems more like a drive in the opposite direction as assessed by civil society advocates such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) who have advocated for freedom of travel and the lifting of the ban on individual travel to the island country of Cuba. According to the new rules published by the Treasury Department, Americans willing to travel to Cuba must obtain licenses as members of groups such as missionary or other humanitarian groups to make trips to Cuba. In addition, travelers must also provide an activity schedule describing activities they will be involved in while visiting. The newly rolled out travel rules which serves as a continuance of the US sanctions on Cuba prohibits Americans visiting the island from making use of hotels, restaurants and shops that have any form of affiliation in ownership to the military and security services of the government of Cuba.
What then Constitutes a Schedule of Activities that Qualifies for A Cuban Travel License?
A look at Treasury Department’s 35-page FAQ gives an outline of what should constitute a potential traveler’s schedule of activities. It stipulates that a traveler is expected to “engage in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba”. To this effect, travelers returning to the U.S from Cuba would be required to show evidences of their activities while in Cuba and violators can spend as much as 10 years in prison.
What your Schedule of Activities should Look like
A typical schedule of activity according to the Treasury Department will be one in which the traveler on arrival to Cuba rents a room in a privately owned apartment, eats in a privately owned restaurant and shops in a privately owned store. All the traveler’s activities must completely show support for individually owned business as a support for the emancipation of people from Cuban authorities.
In another example of a scheduled activity that would qualify for a Cuban travel license as published by the Treasury Department, describes a group of friends who volunteer in a non-governmental organization to build schools for less privileged Cuban children. The volunteers in their spare time would rent bicycles and explore the streets of the capital city Havana. According to the Treasury Department such a trip will qualify because it shows direct humanitarian support for the people, supports civil society in Cuba, and results in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.
Americans can therefore still travel to Cuba. Players in the Cuban tourism industry have confirmed that the new rules have little or no effect on them as majority of the hotels they use are not affiliated with the Cuban military. Travelers will thus make good to have a list of the blacklisted hotels restaurants and stores.
Tammy N. Jones
Founder, Charitable Travel Group Inc.
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