In 2015, President Obama lifted many restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba. Then in 2019, President Trump added major restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba. Now President Biden is reversing many of Trump’s restrictions on travel to Cuba, bringing the policy more closely in line with that of Obama.
Americans can take group trips to Cuba again
As reported by the Miami Herald, President Biden is lifting many of the Cuba travel restrictions that have been in place for the past few years:
- US airlines will again be able to fly to Cuban cities other than Havana
- Group travel will once again be allowed to Cuba for educational and professional exchanges, as well as the “people-to-people” travel category, which was created by Obama
- However, the “people-to-people” individual travel category (which was the most commonly used category for individuals visiting Cuba) won’t be reinstated; this will only be permitted for group travel
- Caps will be lifted on sending money to family in Cuba, as the limit is currently $1,000 per quarter
These policy changes come as Cuba is facing its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with shortages of food and medicine. This new policy is intended to allow the Biden administration to support Cuban people while protecting US national security interests.
As a government official described this:
“Our policy continues to center on human rights, empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future and these are practical measures intended to address the humanitarian situation and the migration flows.”
We should shortly learn the full details of this new policy. This represents a significant easing of restrictions, but it still won’t be as easy to travel individually to Cuba as it was under Obama, since the “people-to-people” individual travel category isn’t being reinstated.
This is better than nothing, but…
Personally I’m strongly in favor of travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba being lifted, because at this point they seem arbitrary. There are all kinds of “evil” governments out there, yet the US doesn’t impose travel restrictions for those countries. This seems to be based a lot more on precedent rather than reality.
While I think this is the right move, personally I think the implications here are fairly limited, beyond those with family in Cuba. At a minimum, I don’t think this will be anything like the Cuba travel surge we saw in 2015:
- It seems like this is just becoming a partisan thing, and the next time there’s a Republican president, I’m sure Cuba travel restrictions will be tightened again
- When Obama first eased travel restrictions, we saw all kinds of investments in the tourism sector in Havana, including major US hotel brands developing properties there, and US airlines vying for slots as a long-term play; I don’t think there will be that much enthusiasm from companies this time around, since they don’t want to invest in something, only to be forced to exit the market again in the future
- As many of us learned when we visited Cuba after Obama changed the rules, Cuba wasn’t prepared for the influx of visitors, and for that matter the country is in an even worse spot now
President Biden is easing travel restrictions for Cuba, including allowing flights to airports other than Havana, and reinstating several types of group travel to Cuba. I’d consider this to be a positive development, but I imagine restrictions will just be reimposed when there’s a party change in the White House.
What do you make of Cuba travel restrictions being rolled back?