Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Politics

Trump’s Cuba regulations are stricter but will not end travel from Tampa Bay area

The Trump administration rolled out new restrictions on trade with Cuba on Wednesday in an effort to "channel economic activities away" from the nation’s military, intelligence and security services while pushing Americans to support Cuba’s private small businesses.

The moves will make some travel to Cuba more cumbersome and expensive but ultimately will have little effect on those in the Tampa Bay area intent on visiting Cuba.

Commercial travel by airline and cruise ship from Tampa to Havana will continue.

The biggest change affecting U.S. travelers: They will have to pay a U.S. government-certified travel company to lead them through Cuba rather than sightseeing on their own.

Travel companies in the Tampa Bay area say they still can operate under these new rules.

"ASC International USA is against any type of travel regulation for U.S. citizens," said Vicente Amor, vice president of the Tampa travel agency. Still, he added, "the new regulations do not represent a big change for us."

Trump announced in June that the United States would take a tougher stand on travel and trade with Cuba, but it took until now for the State Department to compile a list of Cuban companies with which Americans are prohibited from doing business. The 180 companies on the list are operated in some manner by the island nation’s military.

The list includes 87 hotels, 27 of which are in Havana — the only Cuban city directly linked to Tampa with flights and cruises.

Amor said he typically uses Havana’s Hotel Nacional, Melia Cohiba and Melia Habana, none of which are on the banned list.

Frank Reno, president of Tampa’s Cuba Executive Travel, has clients who like four of the banned hotels, including Havana’s Hotel Ambos Mundos, but they have other options such as Hotel Parque, boutique hotels and private bed-and-breakfasts.

"My concern is they will supplement the list," Reno said.

That does remain an option, the Trump administration has said.

"None of this is a death sentence," said Suzanne Carlson, founder of Tarpon Springs’ Carlson Maritime Travel, who will also lose access to four Havana hotels she booked. "We can work around it all. I have others I recommend."

Americans had been able to visit Cuba on their own as long as they indicated they were traveling for one of 12 reasons acceptable to the United States. Travel for tourism is prohibited. One commonly checked category was "education," but that is no longer allowed because enforcement proved difficult.

U.S. government-certified travel companies ensure that Americans engage in meaningful educational activities.

Tampa travel companies were relieved to see that their tour operator partner, the state-run Havanatur, was not on the list of banned companies.

In addition, anyone who booked travel accommodations to Cuba before the new restrictions take effect today is grandfathered in under the old rules.

Among other provisions of the new restrictions:

•?Americans can still bring back an unlimited amount of rum and cigars under the new restrictions.

•?Agriculture and medical devices can still be sold to the Cuban government. Other items can be sold only directly to a Cuban citizen, though under Cuban law all imports must go through the government.

•?Cuba’s Mariel Special Economic Development Zone, home to its largest maritime cargo port, now falls under the U.S. ban unless a company had already signed an agreement to operate a facility there.

U.S. travelers might still stay away from Cuba for fear they’ll inadvertently violate one of the new restrictions and face a fine, said John Kavulich, president of New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

And defiant travelers might flout the new restrictions, Kavulich said with a chuckle. He used as an example the now-banned Cuban soft drink company Tropi-Cola.

"You might likely see an increase in selfies posted on Facebook of U.S. visitors drinking a Tropi-Cola," Kavulich said, "and daring the Trump administration to sanction them."

Contact Paul Guzzo at
[email protected]
Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Comments
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18
Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

WASHINGTON — As he declares the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria a success, President Donald Trump is adopting a phrase that a previous president came to regret — "mission accomplished." On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "A perfectly executed strike last ...
Published: 04/14/18
Rays stadium backers sponsor free screening of ‘Field of Dreams’ at Tampa Theatre

Rays stadium backers sponsor free screening of ‘Field of Dreams’ at Tampa Theatre

TAMPA — It would take hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, and more than a few dreams, too.So a business group advocating for a stadium in Ybor City is joining with the Tampa Theatre for a free screening of t...
Published: 04/13/18