If you’re like me, practically all of your friends, associates and even one rogue co-worker took a trip to Cuba in the last year (only one, however, brought this writer back a cigar, ahem). Without exception, all loved the island nation filled with black people, salsa and respite from life in the United States, rolled into a financially reasonable travel destination.
But those travel tales are starting to come fewer and farther between.
Naturally, the man with the big ass in the White House is to blame.
In 2014, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was opening up relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a detente as much hated as heralded.
Soon after that, airlines were allowed to fly to Cuba, and cruise ships began docking at the Bay of Havana—with no restrictions on rum or Cohibas, to boot! Airbnb spread through the island, and voilà! there was a culturally rich, affordable and black-friendly vacation spot a mere 300 miles from Miami.
But Donald Trump—in his unhealthy obsession with predecessor Barack Obama—repeatedly claimed on the campaign trail that he was going to terminate Obama’s Cuba opening. Once Trump got into office, he tightened travel restrictions to the small island and talked a heap of mess on top of that.
Tom Popper, a New York-based tour operator who organizes trips to Cuba, told USA Today that little has changed in terms of getting to Cuba, but Trump’s tough talk has swayed public perception, which has affected business, perhaps the intended effect.
“The public is presuming, based on the announcements [last year], that regulations have changed significantly,” Popper said. “But what we’re looking at is really much of the same opportunity for people to legally travel to Cuba.”
Tourism to Cuba from the United States is down significantly, with family-owned bed-and-breakfasts being particularly hard-hit. The number of American travelers to Cuba rose to 619,000 last year, reports USA Today, more than six times the pre-Obama level, according to Cuban figures obtained by the Associated Press. From USA Today:
The Trump administration has said the rollback of Obama’s Cuba policies are aimed at cutting off dollars to the Cuban government, which controls many tourist destinations, and diverting them to individual Cuban entrepreneurs. But the changes have significantly cut down the number of U.S. travelers there and made it harder on budding Cuban bed-and-breakfast and restaurant owners on the island, said Ted Henken, a Barush College Latino studies professor with expertise on Cuba.
“It might shift a small percentage of people to the private sector but it’s going to do that at the cost of significantly reducing the overall flow of people going,” he said. “You’re giving them a larger slice of a significantly smaller pie.”
Popper, who runs an agency called InsightCuba, said that he hopes travelers know it’s still very possible to travel to Cuba. It just may take a few more phone calls, and maybe a few more duckets.
Don’t let him ruin Cuba, y’all.