President Donald Trump's new policy on Cuba travel has winners and losers: Group tour operators hope to sell more trips, but bed-and-breakfast owners in Cuba say they're losing business.
Five of 12 private bed-and-breakfast owners in Havana and Cuba's southern colonial city of Trinidad told The Associated Press that they received cancellations after .
"It's contradictory that (Trump) says he want to help civil society, the Cuban people, but what he's doing is hurting them, hurting bed-and-breakfast owners in this case," said Tony Lopez, who rents rooms for $30-$50 nightly in a three-bedroom, 16th-floor apartment in Havana's trendy Vedado neighborhood.
GROUP TOUR BOOM OR PUBLIC CONFUSION?
Tour operators "should be opening champagne" because of the new policy, said John Caulfield, former chief of mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and co-founder of the nonprofit , which seeds innovation in Cuba.
In theory, the new rules should spur "an increase in demand," said CEO Tamar Lowell. But some Americans "will be confused by the new policy," wrongly assuming that all Cuba travel is now off-limits. "The travel operators are going to have to do some work to make people aware that if you go with us, it's OK," said Caulfield.
BAN ON BUSINESS WITH THE MILITARY
The new rules also ban Americans from doing business with entities controlled by Cuban military and intelligence agencies, including some 50 hotels.
Many tour operators say that's no problem because they already use privately owned villas, casas and eateries, and engage with local guides, entrepreneurs and artists.
Hotels aren't an issue for cruises because passengers sleep on the ships. But Carnival Corp. says even its activities on the ground in Cuba already comply with the new rules. "Many of our current tours have been designed with small family-run operations to give our guests an authentic Cuban experience," said Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell.
"We have had to redesign our women's trip to Cuba," said Phyllis Stoller from , which plans a trip for 15 in March. "Our original operator had us visiting some rural areas that are apparently owned by the military."
SUPPORT FOR THE CUBAN PEOPLE
Rubio also suggested that independent travel might continue. Rubio tweeted that the new rules allow "individual Americans" to "travel to Cuba under Support for the Cuban people category" as long as they use "privately owned lodging."
Chad Olin, president of , says his company's people-to-people tours qualify under the new rules because all lodging, drivers, restaurants and cultural activities are from Cuba's private sector. But he also thinks Americans can travel independently using the "support for the Cuban people" category, as long as they patronize private businesses and connect with locals in meaningful ways.