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Cuban entrepreneurs fear new US travel, business restrictions

Latin America2017-07-12

When US President Donald Trump recently announced he was placing new restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba, he said that this would help investments go directly to the people and boost private enterprises there.But many Cuban entrepreneurs are worried that by making it harder for individuals to travel to the island, the changes could have the opposite effect.Judith Martinez converted her home into a bed and breakfast business located in the leafy Vedado district of Havana, and business picked up after the US restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.Now she is worried about the future, following President Trump’s announcement that he will make it more difficult for individual travelers to come here.“We have nine Americans staying in the house right now. This is July, I’ve no idea how many I will have in August, we’ve already had cancellations,” said Martinez.Under the new rules, organized groups with still be allowed on strictly scheduled and monitored tours. But they won’t be able to stay in hotels owned by the Cuban military which includes many of the country’s main hotels.These organized tours tend to attract an older, wealthier clientele who until now have provided a booming business for the best top end private restaurants. It’s the younger, individual travelers who mainly stay in private homes and apartments and are the lifeline for many of the smaller private cafes, bars and restaurants in Havana.For the moment the old rules for travelling to Cuba still apply, as it could take up to 90 days for President Donald Trump’s policy changes to be published and go into effect. But already many of Cuba’s private sector fears the worst.Martinez takes bookings through the US online company, Airbnb, which now has 22,000 listings in Cuba. According to the company, its Cuban hosts have earned around 40 million dollars over the past two years. Now they wonder how much longer it can last.

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When US President Donald Trump recently announced he was placing new restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba, he said that this would help investments go directly to the people and boost private enterprises there.

But many Cuban entrepreneurs are worried that by making it harder for individuals to travel to the island, the changes could have the opposite effect.

Judith Martinez converted her home into a bed and breakfast business located in the leafy Vedado district of Havana, and business picked up after the US restored diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Now she is worried about the future, following President Trump’s announcement that he will make it more difficult for individual travelers to come here.

“We have nine Americans staying in the house right now. This is July, I’ve no idea how many I will have in August, we’ve already had cancellations,” said Martinez.

Under the new rules, organized groups with still be allowed on strictly scheduled and monitored tours. 

But they won’t be able to stay in hotels owned by the Cuban military which includes many of the country’s main hotels.

These organized tours tend to attract an older, wealthier clientele who until now have provided a booming business for the best top end private restaurants. 

It’s the younger, individual travelers who mainly stay in private homes and apartments and are the lifeline for many of the smaller private cafes, bars and restaurants in Havana.

For the moment the old rules for travelling to Cuba still apply, as it could take up to 90 days for President Donald Trump’s policy changes to be published and go into effect. 

But already many of Cuba’s private sector fears the worst.

Martinez takes bookings through the US online company, Airbnb, which now has 22,000 listings in Cuba. 

According to the company, its Cuban hosts have earned around 40 million dollars over the past two years. Now they wonder how much longer it can last.

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