Updated: June 4, 2019
Sources: Cuba legal experts, Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), New York Times
Trump's recent pronouncement to impose new restrictions on travel to Cuba will not have any consequential impact on our trips there. Although there will be a few hotels we may not be able to use any more, there are many other accommodations including small boutique properties we are already working with and many others under construction that are privately owned (ie. not connected to the government). Furthermore, we have developed an extensive network of privately-owned Casas Particulares (B&B style) throughout the country which we prefer because they foster our 'Wild Style' of travel bringing us much closer to the communities we visit. We would like to answer a few questions our travelers ask:
Will the policy change affect my plans to travel there?
The biggest change now is that people cannot travel under the People to People License, nor will it allow cruises, private yachts or fishing vessels to stop in Cuba.
Group and individual private Support the Cuban People travel is still permitted. We can continue designing custom itineraries for as few as two persons. The requirement is you must be accompanied by a local Cuban guide on a pre-planned itinerary that is booked through an agency like ours in the US which operates under a general license, and follows the rules under Support the Cuban People Exchanges (Section 515.574). The main take away is that those traveling under the "Support for the Cuban People" may not stay in government-owned hotels, nor eat at government-owned restaurants.This means that instead, we will arrange all accommodations in private homes (casa particulares) and boutique bed and breakfast and eat all meals at private restaurants (paladars).
Since June 2017 is hasn't been possible for American to leave days open for independent exploration on any tour.That's not to say that we cannot be flexible and adapt to changes pursuant to your interests or events that inevitably arise in the moment, as long as it is within the guidelines of an educational activity. "Support the Cuban People travel is all about making personal connections and learning about the country through the lives of local people. It's essentially what we do everywhere in the world. In Cuba, it becomes a somewhat more pre-determined, but often even more enhanced, cultural exchange and learning opportunity.
This general license authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, which include activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. In accordance with the NSPM, OFAC is amending this general license to require that each traveler utilizing this authorization engage in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba. OFAC is also amending this general license to exclude from the authorization certain direct financial transactions with entities and sub-entities identified on the State Department's Cuba Restricted List. The traveler's schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule in Cuba.
Does the new policy affect how I purchase airline tickets for authorized travel to Cuba?
No. The new policy will not change how persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to Cuba pursuant to the 11 categories of authorized travel may purchase their airline tickets.
What happens if there are changes in the new regulations that alter my trip, or otherwise prohibit travel to Cuba in accordance with the trip I have booked?
It is not expected that the new regulations will require changes in our operations or the design of our itineraries that will alter the experience we offer in Cuba. However, if conditions change by virtue of natural disasters whereby we cannot fulfill the nature of your trip, or political pronouncements disallowing Americans to travel to Cuba legally, we will cancel and refund all payments for land services in Cuba (not international airfares) that you have paid to Wildland Adventures.
Will increased enforcement require documentation on my part?
There will be increased enforcement of the existing travel regulations which have not changed. Within the 11 categories of authorized travel under a General License, travelers have always been required to maintain records of their trip for 5 years. While there is nothing new in this requirement it is more likely now that there will be spot checks for compliance. All travelers in people to people groups should have readily available copies of their "full schedule of educational activities" when they depart to the U.S. and return from Cuba. Your Wildland itinerary will serve as compliance with this requirement (and we have it in our records indefinitely), in addition to any diary, trip notes and photographs of your trip.
"It's complicated." Go see for yourself and learn first-hand what's going on.
We've developed close working relationships with guides, drivers, accommodation proprietors, and other enterprising entrepreneurs who are just beginning to lift themselves up and better their lives. This pronouncement in June 2019 will only create more hardship and hurt ordinary Cubans already suffering under the scarcity created by the US embargo and controlled economy.
We are committed more than ever to support Cubans and their families, especially those we have come to know who contribute so much to the educational experience of our travelers. In recent years, many local entrepreneurs have invested in tourism buying new vehicles, remodeling accommodations, building new restaurants, etc. They need and deserve our ongoing support. We believe the best foreign policy towards Cuba is to lift the U.S. embargo and respect the sovereignty and self-determination of the Cuban people.
Go see for yourself what's happening in Cuba. Travel to Cuba is an opportunity to learn what's going on from an insider's perspective where you can listen to the stories of local people, see with your own eyes what's it's like, and judge history and current political events for yourself. You'll hear over and over from your guides and Cubans you meet: "It's complicated!" It's imperative to gain another perspective of US-Cuba relations and historical events apart from the limited story in our media and political discourse.
Of course, as Americans traveling in Cuba, we don't get open-ended access with anyone, anywhere, so our perspective in limited in this regard. While we don't meet with political dissenters, we do hear directly from Cubans from all walks of life who we engage on our tours and many we meet spontaneously on the street, in fields, business establishments, schools, and in local communities throughout the island. Just like before the announcement of these new travel restrictions, you'll still meet the artists, musicians, fruit sellers, farmers and fishermen, professors and doctors, teachers and students, and others who share their personal stories about the Revolution and life on the island today. You'll come to know our Cuban neighbors and gain a deeper perspective and understanding about the Revolution, Fidel's socialist achievements, and the impacts of U.S. policies that are not part of the Cuba narrative here at home.