In December 2014, what was called the Cuban thaw began. U.S. President Barack Obama reached out to Cuban President Raúl Castro and the 54 years of icy relations between the two countries began to melt a bit, in a U.S.-Cuban detente.
There were, of course, lots of political water under the bridge, but as part of the relations between the two nations, President Obama did something no other President had done since 1959 – allowed regular Americans to visit Cuba.
My dad had gone to Cuba in the early or mid-50s and told me how beautiful it was. So I always wanted to go. Thanks to the Cuban thaw, Joe and I went with some friends in March 2016 and it was an amazing trip to Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Playa Giron and Viñales.
In 2015, there were nearly 163,000 Americans who visited Cuba as tourists. In 2016, it was up to just shy of 285,000. By 2017, the year that the cruise industry expanded into Cuba, over 618,000 U.S. citizens had visited the island nation and in 2018, that number had increased to about 893,000.
But slowly, things started falling apart for Americans who wanted to travel to Cuba.
In 2017, the current regime ordered that Americans could no longer plan their own trips to Cuba and instead could only go as part of authorized educational tours. This was, it was said, to prevent U.S. money from getting into the hands of the Cuban government by our visiting government-owned hotels and attractions.
In mid-2019, the current regime said Americans couldn’t use the commonly used “people-to-people” reason that many Americans claimed to visit the country. This was also when cruise ships departing from the U.S. had to stop visiting Cuba, just 2 years after they had begun doing so.
In late 2019, the current regime banned U.S. commercial carriers from flying into Cuban airports other than Havana.
In early 2020, U.S.-based charter flights could also only land in Havana.
Through all of this, many Americans still were visiting Cuba via private tours. Some of these tour operators used charter planes to get from the U.S. to the island nation.
And so, of course, now the White House has cut off yet another way to get to Cuba – private charters.
Today I asked the Department of Transportation to suspend private charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba. The Castro regime uses tourism and travel funds to finance its abuses and interference in Venezuela. Dictators cannot be allowed to benefit from U.S. travel.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 13, 2020
Of course, the middle of a worldwide pandemic is not the time to go to Cuba. Cuba has handled the virus much better than the United States (let’s face, just about every country has dealt with it better than we have) and even now, they have figured out a smart way to allow tourists into the country but still keep their own people safe.
But once the pandemic is over, let’s keep our fingers crossed for 2021 or so, travel to Cuba should still be possible:
- If Trump is still in power, assuming he doesn’t make it even more challenging to get to Cuba, private tours will continue. You’ll just have to use commercial flights in Havana. There aren’t as many as there were a few years ago, and there certainly aren’t any right now, but there should still be some, eventually.
- If Joe Biden becomes President, who knows what good news we might hear in terms of travel to Cuba. As former Vice President to Barack Obama, perhaps travel there will become easy again. Fingers crossed!
Feature Photo: Max Pixel
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary