You Can Still Travel to Cuba
Understanding the new U.S. PolicyOur Magazine
Last Friday, June 16 President Trump announced planned changes to U.S. Cuba policy that, once implemented, will increase restrictions on U.S. citizens and residents traveling to Cuba as well as enforcement of already existing Obama-era rules. This is not a complete repeal of existing U.S. Cuba policy, but rather some tightening.
Despite these changes, travel and engagement with Cuba’s burgeoning private sector will still be possible, as long as you follow the rules – and as important as ever in encouraging positive change in Cuba.
Given our experience organizing people to people trips to Cuba for our clients, we thought we’d take a moment to cut through the confusion and summarize exactly what is currently known based on the Frequently Asked Questions document published by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) first published June 16 (OFAC has published an updated FAQ document on July 25). (The actual new rules still are to be written and made public, within the next 90-120 days. The announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations.)
What are the key changes ordered by President Trump related to Cuba travel?
There are two important changes for travelers to understand:
- People to people trips will continue to be legal, but only in groups organized “under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact,” such as Almaz Journeys. Travelers will no longer be able to individually plan and book for themselves their people to people exchanges, as was possible under the Obama-era rules. This means we expect to continue offering our private group people-to-people exchanges for our clients just like before, always with a full daily schedule of meaningful exchanges consistent with U.S. regulations.
- Travelers may no longer stay or spend money in any hotels, restaurants or other businesses linked to the Cuban military and intelligence services. We expect this will rule out most of the best hotels in Havana such as Kempinski and Saratoga. Almaz Journeys already has access to an extensive network of hand-picked, privately-owned apartments, B&Bs and villas, as well as the best private restaurants so our clients will have no problems finding comfortable accommodations that also follow U.S. law.
Does “group people to people exchange” mean we have to be in a large tour group of people we don’t know?
No, current regulations and the recent OFAC FAQ document do not specify a minimum number of people for the group people to people trips, but rather only how the exchanges must be organized. Therefore, we expect to continue organizing private group people to people trips for families and friends, always including the required full daily schedule of exchanges to promote meaningful interaction with the Cuban people. Almaz Journeys will continue to carefully monitor all future announcements once the new regulations are issued, and make any adjustments required to ensure our clients are in full compliance with U.S. policy.
When do these changes take effect?
The Treasury and Commerce Departments have 30 days to begin writing new rules, and then 90 days to enact those rules. So, until those rules are announced, the current rules are still in effect.
We will be organizing all client trips to be in compliance with the anticipated new rules, and will leverage our extensive contacts in Cuba’s private sector to make any necessary changes in order to ensure our clients as always are in full compliance with U.S. regulations.
Does this change the process for booking airline tickets to Cuba?
No. According to OFAC’s FAQ document of June 16, 2017, “The new policy will not change how persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to Cuba pursuant to the 12 categories of authorized travel may purchase their airline tickets.”
More questions about planning a private group people to people trip to Cuba? Send us an email or call us today (877-333-4988).