November 12. Cuba opens its borders next week signaling new opportunity for pandemic-weary travelers and the island’s tourism industry, but for U.S. citizens getting there requires jumping through hoops like never before, according to the heads of eight U.S. tour agencies.
U.S. President Donald Trump ended cruise ship dockings, reduced flights to Havana and eliminated them altogether to the outlying provinces. His administration declared most hotels, bus and other Cuban tour services off limits because they were owned by the military, and made financial transactions more difficult in general, measures that remain in place under President Joe Biden.
“U.S. obstacles are the most significant in our more than 22 years of doing business in Cuba,” said Michael Zuccato, head of Cuba Travel Services.
Tensions between Washington and Havana are on the rise ahead of protests planned by dissidents on the island for Nov. 15, the same day Cuba reopens its borders to international visitors.
Zuccato, like the others, said booking hotels and transferring funds to the Caribbean island in particular had become major headaches for those planning trips to Cuba from the United States.
Many tour operators had hoped that Biden would make good on campaign promises and reduce hurdles to visiting the Caribbean island, a popular destination that boasts a rich culture, white sand beaches and historic buildings.