New Government Travel Ban Rules Out Incentive Trips to Cuba

by Jillian Fehrenbach on June 7, 2019 in Announcements, Group Travel, Incentive Travel, Individual Travel

As you may be aware by now, the Trump Administration has reinstated travel restrictions to Cuba for U.S. travelers. A recently reenacted government ban, as described in the U.S. Department of Treasury’s official statement, effectively eliminates group travel to the island indefinitely. Although it includes a “grandfather provision” for pre-paid people-to-people tours, exact details about how the ban will affect the industry and group travel as a whole are still unfolding and yet unclear.

In a statement dated June 4, 2019, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the restrictions have been put in place because Cuba plays “a destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere, providing a communist foothold in the region,” adding that the U.S. government holds Cuba responsible for “propping up U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua…”

For the last three years, cruise ships have been the most popular way for Americans to travel to Cuba—a destination which has recently seen a surge in tourism. According to the Associated Press, over 140,000 people visited this small nation during 2019 Q1, which represents a 300 percent year-over-year increase from 2018.

Like many other planners, VIKTOR looked at incorporating group programs which include Cuba for our clients after the Obama Administration eased travel restrictions to the island in 2016. Since then, individual U.S. travelers and groups, including incentive groups, have shown significant interest in visiting Cuba, hoping to experience the culture of this destination that had been closed off for so long.

According to a statement from industry group Cruise Lines International Association, “This affects nearly 800,000 passenger bookings that are currently scheduled or already underway.”

Responding to the ban, Carnival’s CCO Roger Frizzell, confirmed on June 5, 2019, that “due to changes in U.S. policy, the company will no longer be permitted to sail to Cuba, effective immediately.”

Similarly, Royal Caribbean tweeted that it is analyzing the details in order to “understand the impact on our itineraries” and adjusting their sailing routes, which will no longer stop in Cuba.

While uncertainty remains over previously booked and mostly paid for cruises to Cuba, the silver lining here lies in the excitement of an amended trip itinerary. Where will the cruise ships reroute to, for instance? Updating cruise routes to include other stops may open up new possibilities and unplanned adventures.

VIKTOR Owner Mark Bondy states, “Cuba is an alluring destination and this, unfortunately, prevents our cruise partners from calling on Cuban ports. The good news is that trip itineraries can be revised to deliver outstanding experiences with Caribbean ports that have great appeal. VIKTOR’s depth of experience gives us the flexibility and creativity necessary when national or world events dictate a change.”

If you have any questions regarding this or another travel incentive-related issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@viktorwithak.com or 1-800-748-0478.