President Biden Easing Cuba Travel Restrictions

President Biden Easing Cuba Travel Restrictions

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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

Bottom line

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?

Conversations (37)
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  1. iamhere Guest

    Before you write your opinion on the matter, I suggest you check the facts of what you write first because the details that you wrote and the actual details were quite different such as regarding foreign companies operating in Cuba.

  2. yehuda Kovesh MD Guest

    This morning, the news of the lifting of choking restrictions by the USA government was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Cubans in the island. One thing not mentioned here is that instead of 4 visa interviews per day as was the case under Trump, 20 000 new visas will be processed between now and December 2022. So people do not have to resort to dangerous and illegal means to get to the USA which...

    This morning, the news of the lifting of choking restrictions by the USA government was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Cubans in the island. One thing not mentioned here is that instead of 4 visa interviews per day as was the case under Trump, 20 000 new visas will be processed between now and December 2022. So people do not have to resort to dangerous and illegal means to get to the USA which is still the preferred destination for Cuban Emigres. The inflation is an all time high, lack of money coming in from the USA (estimated at 2 billion dollars per year) was one reason. The airfares to Havana from Miami are unreasonably high because of the restrictions as all Cubans returning home for a visit who make up the majority of visitors to the island have to fly to Havana as there are no other flights (cancelled by Trump administration). This is truly a good step in the right direction and lifting of the embargo would help Cuba very much. New government restaurants with international standards are opening up (Polinesico and Paragon at Havana Libre) and the tourist influx would be welcome

  3. Darren C Diamond

    This is great news.

    Now, when will Biden ease restrictions on US citizens wanting to fly back home from other countries? Over 200,000 untested non-US citizens enter every month and are allowed to stay. US citizens are denied reentry without a negative Covid test.

    1. Alan Gold

      Better news, would be to simply lift all travel restrictions. I have zero interest in group travel. I want true freedom.

    2. Lkmk Guest

      You need a test if you're a non-citizen as well.

  4. Juergen Guest

    Easing travel for US citizen is welcomed by many Cubans. I just like to point out a couple of things I just witnessed coming back from Cuba last week. The country suffers tremendously economically at present. The regime has reformed the currency to one single currency. So in theory you have one single currency. In reality there is a fixed conversion rate of 1 Euro being 25 pesos. There is a full swing inflation and...

    Easing travel for US citizen is welcomed by many Cubans. I just like to point out a couple of things I just witnessed coming back from Cuba last week. The country suffers tremendously economically at present. The regime has reformed the currency to one single currency. So in theory you have one single currency. In reality there is a fixed conversion rate of 1 Euro being 25 pesos. There is a full swing inflation and on the black market the rate is 125 pesos per Euro. This is driven by the thousands of Cubans leaving their country every month (70.000 arrived at the US border this year ) and are in dire need of cash. The regime restricts heavenly the access to Euro or dollars . Of course tourists will most likely not get black market conversations and will be forced in hotels and many stores to pay with their credit card under the bad conversion. A cocktail can therefore cost you between 2 euro and 6 euro. To make things more complicated there is a third option called MLC , which is a solely digital currency and many stores price with this one, and a Euro is roughly 1 MLC. I doubt that many tourists coming will appreciate this bizarre situation under which Cubans are also suffering. At present everyone tries to get a hand on Euro or Dollar cash.

  5. Patrick D Guest

    Cuba wholeheartedly supports Russia's actions in Ukraine. That's enough reason for me to not go despite restrictions being eased.

    I've nothing against the Cuban people, but visiting Cuba helps and funds the government, and there are consequences to cozying up to (and accruing debt to) genocidal autocrats.

    1. Alan Gold

      Are you blind to the reality in Ukraine? The US staged a coup in 2014, and then armed the newly installed regime. That regime killed over 14,000 ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine during the past 8 years. While you can question is that is sufficient justification it certainly beats any justification the US created for invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc.

    2. Patrick D Guest

      Whatabout! Whatabout! Whatabout!

      Russia's ledger is just as stained as ours, but at least we occasionally do some good and there aren't anti-LGBTQIA+ gangs killing and maiming people in the streets with the implicit blessing of the police and government. Piss off with the tankie stuff.

  6. Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

    It’s fantastic that the good people of the Land of the Free are now allowed to visit a nearby country again. U-S-A! U-S-A! F**k Yeah!!

    1. Alan Gold

      only as part of a group. this is not freedom at all.

  7. globetrotter Guest

    US foreign policies are not necessary in the best interest of national security. They are political driven. Cuba is no longer a threat to US for decades and is never a drug infested country. Saudi Arabia should and must be faced with diplomatic sanctions and travel restrictions when 17 out of 19 9-11 hijackers were from. In addition to the assassination of American journalist Khashoggi. Instead, Saudi national investment fund is now partnered with Trump...

    US foreign policies are not necessary in the best interest of national security. They are political driven. Cuba is no longer a threat to US for decades and is never a drug infested country. Saudi Arabia should and must be faced with diplomatic sanctions and travel restrictions when 17 out of 19 9-11 hijackers were from. In addition to the assassination of American journalist Khashoggi. Instead, Saudi national investment fund is now partnered with Trump in golf tournaments to compete with PGA and Kushner in real estate. Capitalism reigns supreme.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      “Instead, Saudi national investment fund is now partnered with Trump in golf tournaments to compete with PGA and Kushner in real estate. Capitalism reigns supreme.”

      Capitalism?

      You mean corruption.

    2. Nick Guest

      Capitalism seems pretty good to me, but for a more clear perspective, let’s ask the Russians and Chinese…

    3. Arie Guest

      Capitalism is an economic system, one that both Russia and China have to varying degrees. In many ways Russia is more capitalistic than many western nations, and that's not a good thing because it's a wild wild west there economically.

      The difference is in the political systems primarily. Though there too there is little difference between Russia and western nations.

  8. Eskimo Guest

    When we bully a small island nation like Cuba, they got stuck by the embargo and their people suffers. (yet no government overthrown)

    When we bully a large resource nation like Russia, our gas prices are all time high. Records are broken weekly.
    Isn't the embargo designed (per comments here) to make Russians suffer (enough to topple Putin).
    Somehow we feel the pain every time we go to the gas station or grocery...

    When we bully a small island nation like Cuba, they got stuck by the embargo and their people suffers. (yet no government overthrown)

    When we bully a large resource nation like Russia, our gas prices are all time high. Records are broken weekly.
    Isn't the embargo designed (per comments here) to make Russians suffer (enough to topple Putin).
    Somehow we feel the pain every time we go to the gas station or grocery stores.

    Maybe consider aids domestically before sending $40 billion to Ukraine?

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      So in summary, let Putin terrorize Eastern Europe because you have an inefficient vehicle? Makes total sense.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      @tipsyinmadras

      You're missing the whole point, but that's why we're in this mess right now and many people are ok with it.

    3. Alan Gold

      Do you realize that Kiev was terrorizing the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine for the past 8 years and this was a direct result of US involvement? I guess you think the US terrorizing Eastern Europe is acceptable.

    4. Eve Guest

      @alan you watch too much Fox News or Russian propaganda tbh

    5. Alan Gold

      This is factual and documented by several independent journalists. I do not watch Fox but given how pro-Kiev they are, I seriously doubt they ever reported the deaths in Donbass. If you are only watching CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc. you are only watching propaganda much like their coverage of covid.

    6. Alan Gold

      The Russians have become united against the west because of the sanctions. It is pure stupidity to think they are going to overthrow Putin. When McDonalds pulled out of Russia, a local poll showed that only 5% of Russians even cared. Americans are completely ignorant of Russia and its history and culture. Wake up!

    7. Eve Guest

      A “local poll”, that sounds reliable on a 24 hours old news

  9. Airfarer Diamond

    Do I need a Covid test coming back from Cuba? Hey, Joe, are you awake?

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      No, but IQ tests are definitely needed for certain returnees.

    2. Airfarer Diamond

      IQ tests, great, I wish that was all one needed. I doubt our C in C would pass one though. I'm am getting really fed up with Covid tests though.

    3. Nick Guest

      Our C in C’s Covid testing policy for returning to the states is sound in every way! Let’s just leave it forever…then we know we will achieve Xi’s zero Covid policy before he does!

  10. Steve Diamond

    I would like to see things open up more but at the same time i have zero desire to return to cuba and feel like most other people i know who traveled there 2015-18 also have zero desire to return.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      “most other people i know” is my favorite kind of statistical sampling!

    2. pstm91 Diamond

      Most people who visit Cuba experience Havana and that's it, yet feel they've seen all of Cuba. I'm the opposite of you're comment; I went during that window but only traveled around the western part of the island (flying in and out of Havana). I'd love to go back and experience the eastern part, Holguín, Santiago etc.

    3. Ray Gold

      Include me on that list of returnees. I have traveled there a number of times, dating back to New Years Eve to see 2000 when all computers were going on the brink ( conspiracy theory before the new generation took over ). I love the country and the people. Not sure what @Steve didn't like but then again, I know many that hate Bangkok and I like the culture as well.

  11. DLPTATL Diamond

    I'm a bit surprised to see this given the radio-wave attacks on US diplomatic personnel in Cuba, I thought that was going to force Biden to continue on with the Trump rules rather than reverting back to the Obama policies. My guess is that the motivation has to do with the mass migration of Cuban refugees to the southern border. Even Democratic leaders in border towns are voicing their strong objections to the end of...

    I'm a bit surprised to see this given the radio-wave attacks on US diplomatic personnel in Cuba, I thought that was going to force Biden to continue on with the Trump rules rather than reverting back to the Obama policies. My guess is that the motivation has to do with the mass migration of Cuban refugees to the southern border. Even Democratic leaders in border towns are voicing their strong objections to the end of Title 42 and the wave of immigrants coming over the border, including an increasing number of Cubans for the reasons cited in this post.

    1. Eve Guest

      Havana Syndrome started in Cuba but it has happened much more all over the world at US Missions including Europe, Africa, and Asia. So Cuba is not an outlier, upon that there is definitive basis for it and some psychologist thinks it is just mental hysteria, further caused by reading information about this topic.

    2. Ben L. Diamond

      A crucial thing to remember about the Havana Syndrome is that it is a pretend medical condition

    3. Eskimo Guest

      And it took almost 30 years to pretend having PTSD as a medical condition before it was fully recognized.

    4. Max Guest

      CIA just doesn’t want to admit that their new high-power surveillance equipment installed at the embassies is responsible.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

TravelinWilly Diamond

“Instead, Saudi national investment fund is now partnered with Trump in golf tournaments to compete with PGA and Kushner in real estate. Capitalism reigns supreme.” Capitalism? You mean corruption.

6
TravelinWilly Diamond

No, but IQ tests are definitely needed for certain returnees.

5
Never In Doubt Guest

“most other people i know” is my favorite kind of statistical sampling!

4
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