Growing pressure from a few Florida members of Congress is making it increasingly difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba due to possible new restrictions. The influx of passengers coming from south Florida and heading to Cuba has been slowing since 2011 due to the cost of licensed educational tours being high in price. There is also a ban on casual, recreational trips.
Now, some members of Congress are trying to put more restrictions on the rules in an attempt to dissuade potential tourists other than Cuban-Americans that are visiting their families. Concurrently, proponents for Cuban tourism are urging President Barack Obama to loosen the rules by using his executive powers so that all Americans are able to roam around the island freely.
The debate over the issue of possible restrictions for travelers wanting to visit Cuba has captured the public’s attention now that Hilary Clinton and Charlie Crist have gotten involved. Both politicians have called for an end to the ban on Americans visiting the island. Poll results have shown that the travel restrictions currently being implemented and the increase of those restrictions are unfavorable among Americans.
Those that are able to visit, after getting past the expense and constraints, are not allowed to wander around the island and must stay with the tour group. Some tourists have said that this can create a lot of fear in the Americans visiting the island, because they are under the impression that it might be dangerous. Cuban-Americans that are visiting family, however, are allowed to roam and visit markets as well as villages.
In 2009 President Obama loosened the restrictions in an effort to encourage more contact between Americans and Cubans. He began by allowing Cuban-Americans to visit the island as much as they wanted without a limit on the amount of times per year. Two years later, he loosened the travel ban even further by allowing different groups to apply for a license to direct educational tours.
However some Cuban-Americans in Congress have objected the notion, stating that tourism in Cuba will only put more money into the Castro regime. The members blocked Senate confirmation of one of President Obama’s State Department nominees until the administration had agreed to constrict enforcement of the rules. The tour groups will be required to submit an extremely descriptive agenda of their visit, emphasizing cultural activities and historical tours while avoiding recreation and lounging on the beach. The tours are designed with an official program that allows Americans to see only what the Cuban government permits them to see. Although there are major limitations for Americans traveling to the island, Cuban-Americans remain frequent visitors.
Because of the growing restrictions, airports have been cutting back on flights to Cuba. Airport officials hope that if the constraints against tourism to Cuba loosen, they will see an increase in flight demand to the island. Despite possible new restrictions on travelers planning to visit Cuba, the Obama administration has weakened sanctions in an effort to allow tourist activities such as salsa dancing, cigar factory tours, and scuba diving.
By Laura “Addi” Simmons