Travel between the United States and Cuba came to an abrupt stop last week when the Trump Administration imposed new travel-related restrictions.
Cruise ships en route to, in or planning to embark for Cuba were diverted or canceled in response to a statement from the U.S. State Department on June 4 that reversed an Obama-era travel license authorizing “group people-to-people educational” travel. The change effectively banned cruise travel to Cuba from the United States
What This Means for Cruise Lines
According to Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, nearly 800,000 bookings have been affected by the ban. Cruise companies quickly made alternative itineraries for their guests and are offering compensation for the inconveniences, such as a 50 percent refund offered by Royal Caribbean International to passengers willing to continue sailing with a new itinerary.
Carnival Cruise Line has offered guests a full refund if they wish to cancel their upcoming trips and on-board credit for those willing to sail with alternative itineraries. Destination swaps are a well-rehearsed tactic for cruise companies due to the frequency with which they must accommodate for weather or social disruption in certain regions. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings shares fell 3.5 percent while Carnival Cruise Line declined 2.7 percent and Royal Caribbean International dropped 3 percent, reflecting the economic damage caused by the restrictions.
Takeaways for Planners and Attendees
The logistical nightmare that this ban represented for cruise line companies may also be felt by planners, as the restriction will impact meetings not only in Cuba, but also meeting spaces and hotel availability in countries and cities that will absorb the drifting tourists.
While this ban spells bad news for cruise lines, it does not apply to everyone. Lauren Precker, senior manager of public relations and social media at The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE), noted that “’professional research and professional meetings’ is still one of the 12 approved categories of authorized travel to Cuba.” Despite this approval, Precker said “it’s possible there will be some impact on attendance at international conferences that have been booked in Havana.”
Although increased political tension between the United States and Cuba could dissuade business relations, Andy Ortiz, president of Global Incentive Management DMC, claims there will be “business as usual for MICE businesses, as long as they follow the rules.”
Ortiz is confident in the future of business in Cuba and stresses that if attendees and planners follow the proper rules and regulations for their approved category of travel, their plans should continue uninterrupted. Ortiz mentioned the need of a visa (which can be obtained through an airline), an affidavit and an agenda for planners and individuals attending meetings or conducting business in Cuba.