The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has expressed its disappointment on US President Donald Trump’s plan to reverse key elements of the trading relationship between the US and Cuba, as outlined by President Obama in 2014 and by his visit last year.
President Trump signed a presidential directive on Friday and announced a plan to prohibit the individual travel of Americans to Cuba and significantly restrict U.S. companies from doing business with Cuban enterprises controlled by the military. He said that he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” with Havana.
“The Cuban people are directly benefiting from increased business and leisure travel to Havana. Travel brings income to the people who work in our industry. President Trump’s statements indicate that the Cuban people, rather than the government will be hit by this policy change,” said David Scowsill, President & CEO, WTTC.
While laying out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami Trump said: “We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo”.
“Airlines, cruise lines and hotel groups have all made significant investments and plans to create jobs and to grow the industry in Cuba, based on clear direction from the previous administration. Our sector needs consistency from governments and stability of policy. This is a clear and unwelcome reversal,” Scowsill said.
According to Scowsill, there is latent demand from the US for people to visit Cuba to explore its history and culture, and it would be a retrograde step to revert once again to Americans traveling in groups.
“US citizens have been traveling as individuals rather than on group tours. Rolling back this policy and allowing US citizens to only enter the country on organised tours, means that less tourism dollars will find their way to the Cuban people,” Scowsill said, adding that tourism is a force for good and it bridges gaps between cultures and empowers local people by creating jobs and income streams.
“We would urge the Trump administration to support the Cuban people,” he said.
Scowsill underlined that over the last months the uptake in travel from the US to Cuba has not been as high as expected, primarily as hotel capacity has not kept up with the demand, leading to some of the US airlines cutting back capacity to the island.
“President Trump’s announcement will put further pressure on the airlines,” he said.
The WTTC’s president added that Cuba is not reliant on the US market for further tourism growth, but it is American businesses and leisure consumers that will suffer from the proposed move.