As travel suppliers puzzle over the possible impact of an
announced but not specified change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, consumers
are rushing to book trips before potential restrictions kick in.
"The John Bolton speech ... has seemingly energized the
traveling public," said Insight Cuba CEO Tom Popper, who said the company
was seeing a 23% increase in traffic to its website week-over-week following
the speech. Bookings were up 18%.
Bolton said in Miami on April 17 that the Treasury
Department "will implement further regulatory changes to restrict
nonfamily travel to Cuba."
Classic Journeys CEO Edward Piegza also said that Cuba
inquiries and bookings are up in the wake of Bolton's remarks.
"With prior changes to regulations for travel to Cuba,
two things generally took place," he said. "One, the regulations took
several months to be put in place. Two, travel that was already in place was
grandfathered in. Both combine to create additional demand for travel to Cuba
that is scheduled, if not fully completed, sooner rather than later."
Many consumers are confused, and tour operators say they are
reassuring them that Cuba travel is legal right now. To make the point, Cuba
Candela doubled down on its 100% guaranteed departures policy, assuring that the
U.S. government won't stop their departure.
"Many Americans were already confused about whether
travel to Cuba is legal. The main concern now is whether clients might lose
money on a booked trip," said Cuba Candela CEO Chad Olin. "We have
assured them there is no risk."
Popper also said guests and travel advisors are savvier
"The consensus seems to be that travelers are less
concerned about potential changes to the travel regulations than they were
after President Trump's announcement in June of 2017, given that little changed
back then," he said.