With the Trump Administration “in the midst of a full review of all U.S. policies toward Cuba” — in the words of White House spokesman Sean Spicer — the potential to close tourism to an island nation that former President Barack Obama normalized relations with in 2014 is a growing threat to the tourism industry.
Trump said on the campaign trail that he would “terminate” Obama’s orders that opened the way for travel and trade with Cuba if the U.S. could not negotiate better terms.
If Trump follows through on that campaign promise, it could spell trouble for any number of tourism entities – including the industry of sports tourism which recently began expanding there, with triathlons, baseball and more.
The recreational tourism industry also stands to be hurt. Oceania Cruises, which just weeks ago announced it will offer six additional cruises featuring Cuba later this year, as well as the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, the island’s “first modern, luxury five-star” hotel.
Steve Lipsher, writing for The Denver Post on assignment in Cuba, claimed “every single fellow traveler I encountered said they were in Cuba now ‘before it changes.’“
That’s a far cry from two years ago at this time, when we asked if Cuba was “the next go-to sports destination.” Baseball is huge on the island, and other outdoor events can take advantage of pristine beaches, ruggedly mountainous areas and brilliant sunshine. Cuba also offers some of the best fishing in the Caribbean, with tour operators ready to host fishing events across waters that have been hailed as “the best thing since the Florida Keys.”
During this wait-and-see period, the World Trade & Tourism Council offered harsh words for Trump: “For the president, who has promised to create jobs and to make America great again, travel and tourism seems the most obvious answer,” David Scowsill, president and CEO of the council said last month in an address at the Routes America aviation conference in Las Vegas. “After all, the livelihood of millions of Americans depends on people being able to use planes, trains and automobiles to spend their tourist dollars. Travel and tourism thrives by breaking down barriers, not building them; by making it easier for people to travel, not applying blanket bans. Our sector bridges divides between cultures, fosters understanding across religious and geographic boundaries. It is a massive generator of jobs and economic growth.”