Australians side-step Cuba restrictions

CUBA’S fledgling tourism industry has been dealt a blow by the Trump Administration’s tightened restrictions on American travel, but the island remains open for business to Australian travellers.

In November, US President Donald Trump announced a crackdown that largely overturned the easing of travel restrictions made during the Obama era.

As a result, American travellers can only visit under a reduced number of approved categories of travel, which may only be arranged through authorised tour operators.

Trump has also banned US citizens from almost 200 businesses linked to the Cuban military, including more than 80 hotels and a string of shops and rum stores visited by tourists. Among them is the Hotel Ambos Mundos, famous for being the home of American author Ernest Hemmingway during the 1930s.

With the new US measures came initial confusion around their impact on travellers from other countries. The thaw in US-Cuba relations under President Obama had opened the way for new tour operators, new air routes and new cruise itineraries, all of which are now required to comply with the tightened restrictions.

Cruise lines largely escaped the change and have been allowed to continue their rapidly expanding range of Cuba itineraries.

But US airlines operate in a new environment and can no longer accept online bookings to Cuba from independent travellers. Reduced demand has seen several American carriers cut services, though the US Department of Transport has tentatively approved new routes to Havana for several airlines.

For Australians, travel to Cuba remains largely unchanged, aside from the need to side-step measures implemented in the US.

Australians cannot travel to Cuba on US airlines, for example, unless they comply with the requirements of America’s system of approved travel categories.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns against booking with US airlines in its Smartraveller advisory for Cuba, and reminds Australians who travel via Canada that they will need a Canadian eTA (electronic Travel Authorisation).

It also warns there is no Australian embassy in Cuba, and that consular services in the country are instead provided on Australia’s behalf by the Canadian embassy.