Wow, kudos to the U.S. Treasury Dept for issuing new regulations so quickly after the President announced easing restrictions on travel to Cuba only last month. This is in stark contrast to the two years it took to create rules for the APEC Business Travel Card.
The biggest change in policy affecting tourism is the removal of the license requirement. Basically this meant obtaining permission and a qualifying reason to visit the island nation. These licenses were not only costly but sometimes took months to secure. However, the new rules are not without restrictions. For example, visitors returning to the U.S. will only be allowed to import $100 worth of Cuban cigars and alcohol.
Pretty much everything else is upside. Here are some of the highlights…
- No limit on the amount spent in Cuba each day
- U.S. credit/debit cards will be accepted
- Insurance companies can provide health coverage for those visiting Cuba
- Financial institutions may open accounts at Cuban banks
- Investments can be made in some small businesses and agricultural entities
- U.S. companies may ship building materials to Cuba to assist with renovating structures
As you can see, the biggest winners here will be U.S. commerce, not tourism. Nevertheless, I expect more travel easing once the U.S. establishes an embassy in Cuba, slated for later this year.
The good news for travelers is that tour groups will eventually be able to arrange longer trips to more locations within Cuba, limited now due to a lack of existing housing. This should improve over the next couple years.
Eventually Cuba will become a prime destination for U.S. tourism, probably to the disappointment of Canadians who have enjoyed an inexpensive and uncrowded island vacation for years.