The new pol­icy leaves tourism com­pa­nies un­sure of their fu­ture in the is­land na­tion.

Air­lines, cruise lines and ho­tels are un­sure of what to ex­pect from Trump’s pol­icy shift.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­times.com Twit­ter: @hugo­martin

Three years af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama be­gan open­ing the door for U.S. com­pa­nies to in­vest in Cuba, Pres­i­dent Trump has an­nounced pol­icy changes that have ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions un­sure of their fu­ture in the is­land na­tion.

Trump’s new pol­icy, out­lined broadly in a speech Fri­day, would stop in­di­vid­ual Amer­i­cans from trav­el­ing to Cuba un­der the so-called peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­emp­tion and ban busi­ness that di­rectly ben­e­fits the Cuban mil­i­tary.

Trump’s pol­icy still al­lows 12 cat­e­gories of travel to Cuba, in­clud­ing ex­emp­tions for guided groups and vis­its to see fam­ily mem­bers. And no new re­stric­tions are be­ing placed on what trav­el­ers can buy and bring back to the U.S. from Cuba.

But the self-di­rected, in­di­vid­ual travel al­lowed un­der the Obama pol­icy will be pro­hib­ited.

Dur­ing a speech in Mi­ami on Fri­day, Trump said his new pol­icy re­places Obama’s “ter­ri­ble and mis­guided” deal with the Cas­tro gov­ern­ment with “a deal that’s fair and a deal that makes sense.”

Air­lines, cruise lines and ho­tel com­pa­nies that have launched busi­ness deals with Cuba say they aren’t sure what the new pol­icy will mean for their op­er­a­tions.

Amer­i­can hos­pi­tal­ity gi­ant Star­wood, which was ac­quired last year by Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional, ne­go­ti­ated a deal last year to man­age a 186-room ho­tel, now called Four Points by Sher­a­ton. That ho­tel is owned by the Cuban mil­i­tary, and Mar­riott had planned to ne­go­ti­ate other ho­tel deals in Cuba.

“We are still an­a­lyz­ing the pol­icy di­rec­tive is­sued by the pres­i­dent today, and its full ef­fect on our cur­rent and planned op­er­a­tions in Cuba may de­pend on re­lated forth­com­ing reg­u­la­tions,” Mar­riott spokes­woman Bar­bara Delol­lis said, adding that the com­pany has “in­vested sig­nif­i­cant re­sources es­tab­lish­ing a pres­ence in Cuba.”

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, when asked dur­ing a brief­ing about the Star­wood deal, said the de­tails of the pol­icy change would be spelled out un­der reg­u­la­tions ex­pected to be drafted by the de­part­ments of Trea­sury and Com­merce, start­ing in the next 30 days. But the of­fi­cials said that the ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t want to dis­rupt ex­ist­ing busi­ness.

Months be­fore he was elected, Trump said in an in­ter­view with CNN that he would con­sider open­ing a Trump-branded ho­tel in Cuba “at the right time, when we’re al­lowed to do it. Right now, we’re not.”

But since his elec­tion, Trump has been lob­bied by law­mak­ers and oth­ers who thought the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Cuba pol­icy was too le­nient.

John S. Kavulich, pres­i­dent of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Eco­nomic Coun­cil, said the mil­i­tary is con­nected to so many busi­nesses in Cuba that it will be dif­fi­cult for Amer­i­cans to iden­tify the ho­tels, restau­rants and other mer­chants that would be pro­hib­ited un­der Trump’s change.

He sug­gested that the U.S. gov­ern­ment cre­ate a smart­phone app that can iden­tify such busi­nesses for U.S. trav­el­ers.

Un­der Obama, sev­eral ma­jor U.S. car­ri­ers be­gan reg­u­lar routes last fall to Ha­vana and other Cuban cities. Trump’s pol­icy won’t im­pede such air ser­vice but sev­eral air­lines said it was un­clear how Trump’s new re­stric­tion on in­di­vid­ual trav­el­ers will af­fect de­mand for flights to Cuba.

“South­west is now re­view­ing the pres­i­dent’s state­ments made this af­ter­noon in South Florida and is as­sess­ing im­pact any pro­posed changes could have on our cur­rent sched­uled ser­vice to Cuba,” South­west Air­lines spokesman Dan Land­son said.

Robert Gau­thier Los Angeles Times

TAXI DRIVER Jorge Perez, 56, left, tosses his keys to an­other driver as tourists wait for a ride in Old Ha­vana. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on Fri­day an­nounced pol­icy changes to tighten re­stric­tions on travel to Cuba and ban busi­ness that di­rectly ben­e­fits the Cuban mil­i­tary.

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