Is Travel to Cuba at Stake Under President Trump?

Reports are surfacing that next week, US President Donald Trump will travel to Miami, Florida to reveal the United States’ revised policy concerning Cuba.  Much of President Trump’s policies are expected to rollback diplomatic and trade ties with Cuba the Obama Administration established near the end of their second term.  One major diplomatic advance concerned travel to Cuba.

The Obama Administration made it so that Americans could travel to Cuba with very few restrictions.  Americans could travel to Cuba if their travel fit under one of the 12 approved reasons to travel to Cuba.  The 12 approved categories were rarely enforced and Americans began to travel to the island nation.  Airlines quickly added flights.

With major rollbacks with regards to diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, it’s very likely that it might, once again, become harder for Americans to travel to Cuba.  Here’s what some sources are reporting.

Background: Travel to Cuba 2015 Onwards

In 2015, the President Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro alongside leaders from Canada and Pope Francis.  The result of these meetings is known as the “Cuban Thaw.”  Following these meetings, the US and Cuba announced normalization of relations.  The normalization of relations meant changes to trade, diplomatic ties, immigration, and travel.

Prior to the Cuban Thaw, Americans needed official visas issued by the US and could only travel to Cuba for very specific reasons.  Additionally, Americans couldn’t bring Cuban goods into the United States.  The US-Cuba travel ban dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

However, in 2015, President Obama, President Castro, leaders from Canada, and Pope Francis reached an agreement to have the US normalize relations with Cuba.  One major part of the normalization between the two nations was easing the US-Cuba travel embargo.

In January 0f 2016, the easing of the travel ban for Americans traveling to Cuba had begun.  Effective in early 2016, Americans no longer needed to apply for a visa to travel to Cuba.  As long as their travel fit one of the 12 approved reasons to travel to Cuba, they could travel almost free of restrictions.  However, it should be noted that Cuba requires all foreign travelers to purchase a visa.  These Cuban tourist visas can be purchased at almost any airport in the US with service to Cuba.  That said, travel to Cuba was made fairly simple.

Havana, the capital city of Cuba

Havana, the capital city of Cuba

At the same time, US airlines began to plan flights to Cuba.  These regularly scheduled passenger flights have since commenced.  Interestingly, some US airlines have already pulled out of Cuba or trimmed their schedules and capacity as airlines greatly overestimated the amount of Americans that wanted to travel to Cuba.  Still, today, American, Delta, United, and Alaska Airlines all operate regularly scheduled passenger flights that can be booked online like any other ticket.

The bottom line is that it’s super easy to travel to Cuba.  Some travelers are reporting that you don’t even need to fit one of the 12 approved categories for Cuba travel, however, it’s not advised that you travel unless your travel fits one of those 12 categories.

President Trump May Make It Harder to Travel to Cuba

President Donald Trump will reveal the United States’ revised policy concerning Cuba Friday.  As previously mentioned, most of the policy updated will be rollbacks of Obama era normalization.  The BBC and NBC News are reporting that travel to Cuba appears to be at the forefront of Trump’s Cuba policy.

According to the BBC, travel is most at risk.  Changes to travel will likely include major changes to the 12 approved reasons to travel to Cuba.

President Trump will likely announce penalties and fines for traveling to Cuba for reasons that don’t fit the revised 12 reasons for travel.  There is limited information about what changes will be made to the 12 reasons for Cuba travel.  However, it appears that restricting tourists from traveling to the island nation will be the main priority.

A second major change could involve transporting goods from Cuba to the United States.  As it stands right now, Americans can bring up to $400 in Cuban goods with them back to the US.  The amount is $100 for tobacco and alcohol.  The Trump administration touts trade and trade deals.  It was nearly impossible for Trump not to talk about “how terrible NAFTA is!” and “The best trade deals ever!” when he was on the campaign trail.  If the Trump administration really wants to impact the Cuban economy and discourage travel to Cuba, the best thing to do would be limit imports.

Prepare to say "adios" to Cuban cigars!

Prepare to say “adios” to Cuban cigars!

As I alluded to above, there’s still a lot that’s not known about President Trump’s Cuba policy.  What is known is that the majority of the administration’s Cuba policy will be major rollbacks to Obama era efforts to normalize relations.  These rollbacks will likely impact travel.


I’ll keep abreast to this story and provide updates as needed.  Of course, I’ll tune into President Trump’s Miami event and relay any major announcements right here on TravelUpdate.

Personally, I hope the sources that indicate changes to travel are wrong.  I’ve been wanting to travel to Cuba for a while now.  Additionally, I think it’s time to normalize relations with Cuba.  For those of you that say, “Well, what about the human rights violations and the communism” I will refer you to one of the United State’s biggest allies, Saudia Arabia.

What do you think of the Trump administration’s plans to roll back efforts to normalize relations with Cuba?  Do you have plans to visit Cuba anytime soon?