Sunday April 21, 2019
Home World Demand for Tr...

Demand for Travel to Cuba Flattening with soaring Hotel Prices on the Island: New Travel Restrictions likely to be imposed when Donald Trump takes Office

Gregory Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours, a tour company that's taken 3,000 Americans to Cuba, confirms there has been a softening in demand

0
//
U.S. tourists walks outside the Bodeguita del Medio Bar frequented by the late American novelist Ernest Hemingway in Old Havana, Cuba, May 24, 2015. One airline's cutback in flights to Cuba may be a sign that demand for travel to the island is slowing down amid uncertainty about Donald Trump's Cuba policies along with a near-doubling of Havana hotel prices and concerns over Zika, VOA

Dec 8, 2016: Demand for travel to Cuba may be flattening, with soaring hotel prices on the island, American Airlines cutting some flights, and uncertainty over whether new travel restrictions could be imposed when Donald Trump takes office.

Gregory Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours, a tour company that’s taken 3,000 Americans to Cuba, confirms there has been a softening in demand.

In part he blamed hotel prices on the island, which have nearly doubled since 2015 and which are set by the government.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

“There’s still demand but there’s only so much people can afford,” he said. Cheaper lodging is available through Airbnb and other services, but not all travelers want the hassles and uncertainty of traveling on their own in Cuba.

“Zika has cast a shadow”

Geronemus said “Zika has cast a shadow” on the region too, despite the Cuban government’s assertion that mosquito abatement efforts have been successful. Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, can cause birth defects.

While an increasing number of airlines are offering flights, American Airlines is cutting three of its 13 daily flights to Cuba beginning February 16 and switching to smaller planes on some routes, said spokesman Matt Miller. He added that adjustments are common with new service and that the reduction was made before the presidential election.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

ForwardKeys, which compiles data based on global reservations transactions, says it has not detected a drop in bookings for Cuba. And Cuban government statistics show an 80 percent increase in visits by Americans the first six months of this year over the same period in 2015, from 76,183 to 136,913.

U.S. airlines add flights

In the last few weeks, several U.S. airlines started regular commercial flights to Cuba. United Airlines launched Newark-Havana flights November 29 and Saturday service from Houston on December 3.

Spokesman Jonathan Guerin said the airline is “prepared to work with the new administration” going forward.

JetBlue, which also just launched service, would not provide specifics but said “we are pleased with how flights to Cuba are selling.”

Tanner Callais of Austin, Texas, who runs a cruise website called Cruzely.com, had hoped to cruise to Cuba in 2017.

But “now with some of the things I’ve heard about tightening up restrictions on travel to Cuba, we’re taking a wait and see approach,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is put a lot of money down for a trip and then have the cruise cancelled due to new restrictions put in place.”

Travel ban a concern

Others are booking trips as soon as they can, fearing a Cuba travel ban under Trump.

“Ordinarily we book trips three to six months ahead but people are calling this week to register for trips three weeks from now,” said Kimberly Haley-Coleman, executive director of GlobeAware, which organizes volunteer trips.

Though Geronemus says the softening started “long before Trump was elected,” some travelers are asking for reassurance that they’d be covered if travel gets banned between the time they book their tickets and their planned trip. That has smarTours promising a full refund or credit for a discounted trip elsewhere should new rules make it impossible to go ahead with a trip, Geronemus says.

Trump’s plan unsure

Erika Richter, spokeswoman for the American Society of Travel Agents, says “some people we talk to are convinced that everything will be rolled back on January 21. Others think, as a hospitality industry leader, [Trump] will not follow through. So, I think it’s probable but not guaranteed that we see a roll back in early 2017.”

But what Trump has in mind for Cuba is unclear. Three days after Fidel Castro’s death, the president-elect tweeted: “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

Some critics believe the Obama administration should have held out for democratic and human rights reforms as part of the loosening of travel restrictions. But others think that stimulating Cuba’s economy through travel — including inroads by U.S. cruise, hotel and tour companies there — is the best way to bring change.

Cruise lines headed to Cuba

On Wednesday, two U.S. cruise companies, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean International received permission from the Cuban government to sail from the U.S. to Cuba. In May, Carnival Corp. became the first U.S. company in decades to run cruises to Cuba.

Haley-Coleman thinks the most likely scenario is a return to strict enforcement of rules for permitted types of trips. Even under President Obama, Americans can’t go to Cuba as regular tourists. They have to certify that their trip falls into one of 12 permitted categories, including educational, humanitarian or cultural travel.

Right now, though, that certification is done on the honor system.

Haley-Coleman thinks Trump may require itineraries be pre-approved to ensure Americans are not just drinking mojitos on the beach.

Also Wednesday, a group of Cuban entrepreneurs traveled to Washington to deliver a letter asking Trump to support increased U.S. travel, trade and investment with Cuba. As owners of restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and other businesses, they said that continued engagement with the U.S. is essential for progress and growth on the island.  (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. President Donald Trump Vetoes Measure to End U..S Involvement in Yemen War

ump issued his first veto last month on legislation related to immigration. Trump had declared a national emergency so he could use more money to construct a border wall. Congress voted to block the emergency declaration and Trump vetoed that measure.

0
Yemen
Men inspect the site of an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, April 10, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed a bill passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

In a break with the president, Congress voted for the first time earlier this month to invoke the War Powers Resolution to try to stop U.S. involvement in a foreign conflict.

The veto — the second in Trump’s presidency — was expected. Congress lacks the votes to override him.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote in explaining his veto.

Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival.

Many lawmakers also criticized the president for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States and had written critically about the kingdom. Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October and never came out. Intelligence agencies said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the killing.

U.S.
Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival. VOA

The U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. Members of Congress have expressed concern about the thousands of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes since the conflict began in 2014. The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country also has left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

House approval of the resolution came earlier this month on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote last month was 54-46.

Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voted to end U.S. military assistance to the war, saying the humanitarian crisis in Yemen triggered “demands moral leadership.”

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump on Wednesday vetoed a bill passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. VOA

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, acknowledged the dire situation in Yemen for civilians, but spoke out in opposition to the bill. McCaul said it was an abuse of the War Powers Resolution and predicted it could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries.

Also Read: Despite Tariff War With U.S, China’s Economic Growth is Steady

Trump issued his first veto last month on legislation related to immigration. Trump had declared a national emergency so he could use more money to construct a border wall. Congress voted to block the emergency declaration and Trump vetoed that measure. (VOA)