Biden Admin Lifts Sanctions on Cuba; Tourism Largely Unaffected

The Biden Administration this week lifted some sanctions on Cuba, which will allow for additional support for the Cuban people, including their human rights and their political and economic well-being. In addition, as reported by The New York Times, the move would also include the expansion of flights beyond Havana. In all, however, the moves do not change much when it comes to travel and tourism.

Among the support offered, according to the State Department, the U.S. will:

  • Reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and further increase consular services and visa processing, making it possible for more Cubans to join their families in the United States via regular migration channels.
  • Make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized U.S. travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research.
  • We will encourage the growth of Cuba’s private sector by supporting greater access to U.S. Internet services, applications, and e-commerce platforms. 
  • Support Cuban families and entrepreneurs by enabling increased remittance flows to the Cuban people by lifting the family remittance cap of $1,000 per quarter and supporting donative remittances to Cuban entrepreneurs

That said, CNN reports that the U.S. will still prohibit individual American tourism in Cuba and won't allow individuals to travel there for educational purposes. Americans may still visit, however, through authorized group “people-to-people” visits—which may be expanded as part of the recently lifted sanctions.

A senior administration official, according to NPR, also said the U.S. would not remove any entities from its Cuba Restricted List, which comprises Cuban government- and military-aligned companies that U.S. companies and travelers are blocked from doing business with.

"Firstly, it’s overall very positive news and perhaps the start of more to come," said David Lee, founder of tour operator Cultural Cuba. He explained: 

  1. "It’s great for the Cuban people, both within Cuba and a relief to Cuban Americans with family in Cuba. They have suffered a lot during COVID and the limit of $1,000 per quarter in remittances put forth by the Trump Admin was devastating.
  2. "Restarting consular services is also fantastic for the Cuban people. These are people with family living in the U.S.A. and U.S. citizens who are ready to fully support them but they couldn’t get visas, so they had no choice but to use coyotes on a dangerous journey to get to the U.S.A. There is a backlog of over 20,000 visas
  3. "More flights authorized to other cities than Havana is also a big benefit to Cuban Americans with family living far from Havana but [it's] also very good for tourists, so they can more easily visit some of the other vibrant cities which are a long drive from Havana."

Lee added, "The Biden Administration has taken a cautious approach to U.S./Cuba relations, prioritizing changes that will support the Cuban people not the Cuban government.  More can be done and likely will but this is great news and further encourages Americans to visit the island on a legal "Support for the Cuban People" tour. We are already seeing an increase In trip requests since the announcement."

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