Cuban Tourism Plummets Amidst Trump’s New Travel Restrictions

September 9, 2019

While Cuba may be on many Americans’ travel bucket lists, Donald Trump is making this dream less and less attainable with each policy he passes. Not only are these increasingly tight travel restrictions affecting the thousands of US travelers that have dreamed of lounging on the beaches of Varadero or walking down the colorful Havana streets, the Cuban tourism industry is now struggling to generate profits like they once did.

The Obama administration made impactful steps towards repairing relations between Cuba and the US. This involved policies of restoring diplomatic ties and diffusing tensions between the two nations, as well as lessening travel restrictions. One of the ways American citizens were able to travel to Cuba was through “people-to-people” travel, meaning they could book travel through a US based tour group. One of the most popular ways for Americans to legally venture over to Cuba was through cruise companies. In 2019 between January 1st and April 30th, 142,721 Americans traveled to Cuba by cruise ship compared to the 114,832 who traveled by plane, the New York Times reports.

Since Trump has taken office, he has reversed many of these policies, increasing travel restrictions. “People-to-people” travel is currently prohibited, as well as the entrance of American owned cruise ships into the country. Trump’s administration claims to have made these changes in an attempt to not support communist regimes in any way. When asked one week before the presidential elections about how he planned to handle Cuban relations during his time in office if he was elected, he responded with “The United States should not prop up the Castro regime economically and politically, as Obama has done and as Hillary Clinton plans to do. They don’t know how to make a good deal, and they wouldn’t know how to make a good deal if it was staring at them in the face.” Trump has continued to go forward with this isolationist attitude towards Cuba in part because of the Cuban government’s support of Nicolás Maduro, the corrupt Venezuelan president. While many nations have chosen to denounce the Venezuelan government and withdraw support (even through a third party), the U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba have led to economic hardship for the Cuban tourism industry and private sector.

The amount of tourists arriving to Cuba dropped by 23.6% in July 2019, only one month after the enforcement of Trump’s new policies. During this time, the Cuban government also drastically changed its expectations on the number of tourists they would be receiving in 2019. The Latin American Post reports that government officials changed their expectations from over 5 million visitors in 2019, to around 4.3 million because of Trump’s strict new policies. Last year, Cuba received around 4.7 million tourists. This sharp decline in visitors has not only affected tourism companies, it has also taken a toll on small businesses, hotels, and taxi drivers whose clientele is made up in large part by seasonal tourists. While Trump claims he does not aim to hurt these businesses in the Cuban private sector, his policies directly contradict this sentiment. Although travel restrictions continue to tighten under the Trump presidency and Cubans may be losing hope in the potential of their tourism sector, there is no telling how the numbers may shift after the 2020 presidential election in November.


  1. Latin American Post. (25 August 2019). "Tourism to Cuba collapses due to Trump travel restrictions". Latin American Post.
  2. Tariro Mzezewa. (4 June 2019). "New Rules on American Travel to Cuba Include Cruise Ban". The New York Times.
  3. Mimi Whitefield. (11 August 2019). "Cuba feels the pinch of the Trump administration’s travel restrictions". Los Angeles Times.

About Author(s)

Dana Cornacchio's picture
Dana Cornacchio
Dana Cornacchio is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a Spanish major, a studio art minor, and certificates in children’s literature and Latin American studies. During summer 2018, Dana completed research with the Office of Undergraduate Research comparing contemporary children’s literature from the United States and Argentina. Dana intends to continue researching literature and other Latin American topics throughout her undergraduate career. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a masters in education in order to teach Spanish language in a classroom of her own one day.