Central to President Trump’s plans to peel back his predecessor’s detente with Cuba is the idea that there is “good” and “bad” U.S. travel. The United States, Trump believes, can tightly regulate American vacations to deprive the Castro government of dollars and redirect the money to the island’s growing class of entrepreneurs.
By reinstating restrictions on independent travelers, the Trump administration’s new policy will hurt Cuba’s emerging private sector that caters to American visitors, critics insist.
Instead, the new rules will herd Americans back toward the kind of prepackaged, predictable group tourism that the Cuban government actually prefers — and earns more revenue from.
Americans will generally still be allowed to visit Cuba if they come on cruise ships, for instance, or book with U.S.- approved tour agencies that ensure travel itineraries do not include too much unstructured time.
The complication for Trump’s rules, however, is that large tour groups are too big for smaller bed-and-breakfast rentals, and their government-appointed guides tend to ply the well-trodden routes that bypass the new galleries, restaurants and night spots opened by enterprising Cubans and others after the openings spurred by Obama.
That, in turn, will cause a ripple effect.
“If independent American travel is cut off, you won’t only hurt the bed-and-breakfasts. It’s also the construction crews, the private tour guides, the taxi drivers, the restaurants and the artists selling handicrafts."
Limited economic reforms by Cuban leader Raúl Castro, 86, have allowed Cuban entrepreneurs to buy and sell property and run small businesses, but it was Obama’s normalization measures that kicked the process into overdrive.
In Old Havana’s tourist quarter, entire city blocks of crumbling century-old buildings are being renovated and turned into boutique hostels and chic cafes.
The work is being almost entirely carried out by private sector tradesman and contractors.
“I’ve never been this busy,” said Roberto Claro, a dust-covered construction foreman in Old Havana, whose crew was busy converting a ruined, century-old building into a seafood restaurant. There were two other buildings on the same block also getting an overhaul.
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