Despite a flurry of news reports that would seem to indicate otherwise, it’s still possible for Americans to travel independently to Cuba.
It’s a crucial message and one that the coordinator of Cuba-US People to People Partnership is seeking to circulate far and wide before serious harm is done to the Cuban economy and private businesses on the Caribbean island.
“Tour operators, cruise lines and US government agencies must take steps to clarify the situation before more damage is done to the freedom of American travelers and to the well-being of private business in Cuba.”
In the wake of new travelregulations announced in Novemberby the Treasury Department, news organizations have issued wildly varying reports about the current situation, including stating that all visits must be done through recognized US group-tour agencies and that visits are now limited to tours sanctioned by the US government, permission for which the Trump administration can make as stringent as it wants.Numerous news organizations have erroneously reported that it’s no longer possible for Americans to travel independently to Cuba, said McAuliff.
The reality is that the individual general license for people to people travel has been abolished by Trump. However, McAuliff argues that equal, if not more freedom is available through the revised category known as “Support for the Cuban People.”
This additional category states that travelers must engage in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba. Renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at a privately owned Cuban restaurant (paladares) and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) are all examples of authorized activities.
However, in order to meet the requirement of a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.
The stipulation that individuals participate in activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba is an aspiration common to most Americans, said McCauliff, and one satisfied by patronizing the private sector.
The Cuba-US People to People Partnership also stated that tour operators may have motive to discourage individual visits to the island, as they take place outside of their packaged programs or cruises.
“The unintended loss of independent American travelers is devastating to Cuba’s burgeoning private sector of bed and breakfasts, restaurants and local guides,” states the release from Cuba-US People to People Partnership.
Trump’s rollback of Obama-era travel freedoms in Cuba have not been the only damper on tourism to the island.
American travel has also been slowed by safety warnings issued in September by the US government, which included the US Embassy in Havana withdrawing 60 percent of its staff.
The government has warned Americans of alleged sonic attacks on US Embassy Havana employees. The mysterious attacks have been said to cause individuals to suffer from a range of symptoms including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping.
The U.S. and Cuban governments have not yet determined who is responsible for the attacks and the Cuban government has denied any involvement, calling the reports bizarre nonsense.
“Although the travel warning had no legal force, it created a negative atmosphere for new visitors,” the Cuba-US People to People Partnership said of the safety warnings.