Back in June, Donald Trump announced plans to reverse the Obama-era rules that allowed a diplomatic opening with Cuba. That rule change has now gone into effect, which means that it will be more difficult for American citizens to travel to Cuba and harder for American businesses to work on the island.
Cuba has become a popular destination for adventure-minded American travelers since President Obama renewed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015. However, the Cuban military is deeply enmeshed in much of the island’s economy, including the tourism industry where its hospitality arm owns a stake in many of the island’s hotels and restaurants. The new rules aim to keep American dollars away from the government by making it unlawful to spend money at some 180 entities with ties to the Cuban military or intelligence agencies. According to the Miami Herald, that includes “83 hotels, stores, marinas, tourist agencies, industries and even two rum makers owned by the government.”
If the goal is to help private businesses and citizens directly, as ABC News notes, the move could be a boon to Airbnb, which has been rapidly growing in Cuba. However, simply renting a home on Airbnb would probably not be enough to satisfy the new travels rules, which require individuals to travel as part of a group registered with the U.S. government and follow the so-called “people-to-people” plan. That generally means trips have to have an educational component to them, a full schedule of activities, and “meaningful contact” with Cuban people.
It’s hard to not note the irony of the new Cuba regulations going into effect while Trump is visiting China.