The Trump administration on Wednesday tightened travel and commercial ties to Cuba, part of its effort to roll back former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEx-Saudi official says he was targeted by a hit team after fleeing to Canada Republican spin on Biden is off the mark Yellen expects inflation to return to normal levels next year MORE’s historic opening with Havana.
The new regulations will now allow “renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas)” to count toward supporting the Cuban people.
However, a traveler must engage in additional Support for the Cuban People activities in order to meet the requirements of a full-time schedule, other than just staying in private homes and eating in private restaurants, according to a summary sheet.
Cuba is Airbnb’s fasting growing market, with at least 22,000 rooms now listed on the travel-booking site. About 35 percent of Cuba’s Airbnb guests are American.
“Airbnb has been active in trying to make certain that it can claw back some of what it sees as a problem,” said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “Their biggest problem is the shift from individual to group travel.”
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.), a Cuba hard-liner who helped shape Trump’s policy, assured travelers in June that they would still be able to visit the island if it’s in support of the Cuban people and if they stay in an Airbnb.
“Individual Americans can travel to #Cuba under Support for the Cuban people category but must use privately owned lodging like AirBnB,” Rubio wrote on Twitter.
Financial restrictions on Cuba
Trump’s new Cuba policy also prohibits financial transactions that benefit the Cuban military business arm, known as the Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA). The move is designed to restrict the flow of money to the oppressive elements of Raúl Castro's government.
The military-controlled conglomerate is involved in nearly all sectors of the economy, but tourism is its crown jewel. GAESA’s tourism affiliate, Gaviota, operates an estimated 40 percent of all the island’s hotel rooms, in addition to controlling a number of restaurants, shops, tour groups, car rentals and taxis.
The Commerce and Treasury departments were tasked with identifying all the Cuban military-linked entities that will now be off-limits to Americans under the new regulations, with a few exceptions.
The list includes 180 entities and sub-entities, including hotels, stores, tourist agencies, rum companies, beverage manufacturers and marinas.
But the new restrictions do not apply to deals that have already been inked. That's why Four Points by Sheraton Havana, which is operated by GAESA and became the first U.S. hotel to come to Cuba in more than 50 years, is not on the list of prohibited entities.