This time last year, it looked like Cuba was going to be the US travel industry’s next golden goose. It was a largely untapped Caribbean treasure, made even more desirable because it had been taboo for so many years. Decades ago, Cuba was the ultimate getaway for this country’s movers and shakers. Then the Communist Revolution and increasingly hostile political relationship with the US closed Cuba to American tourist trade.
Then, finally, things changed. Cuba was opened to American commerce, and scores of cruise ships and airlines headed directly at Havana. Then came new restrictions and changes to what and when and how. And the Trump administration is promising more. Some tour companies were still offering trips, but things didn’t look nearly as free and open as they did mere months ago. Now, the other shoe has dropped.
The US State Department issued a dramatic “safety warning” recently. The collective travel industry responded with a metaphorical eye roll. Many said there are no reports of American travelers having been harmed by “mysterious sonic attacks against US diplomats…”
Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours, told the Associated Press, he is continuing business pretty much as usual. “We continue to believe Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers, and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes… There has long been significant political tension between the US and Cuban governments, but the experience that our travelers have had on the ground with the Cuban people has been nothing short of amazing. We have no reason to expect that these experiences will not continue.”
Collin Laverty of Cuba Educational Travel said, despite the State Department alerts, there is “no evidence to indicate US travelers at risk during their visits to Cuba… (warnings are) absolutely unnecessary…”
That seems to be the prevailing opinion of most in the US travel industry. US airlines are still selling tickets to the country. Cruises are still headed to Havana, and many private tour companies are doing a booming business.
Rental app Airbnb says they will continue to allow US travelers to book rooms in Cuba, though they will allow travelers who decide to cancel to do so without a penalty. And Carnival is on record as saying they believe the incidents that affected diplomats pose no threat to civilian travelers. So, who’s right? Does the State Department have a point, or is this much ado about nothing? As long as travelers are allowed to continue to travel to Cuba, it will likely be those consumers who decide that question in the long run.