Cuban-American families, travelers disrupted by new restrictions

The Trump administration slapped Cuba with new restrictions Wednesday in an effort to put pressure on the island’s support of the regime in Venezuela.

The restrictions will also impact travelers and Cuban-Americans who were operating under the Obama administration's open travel policies.

"There's also no doubt, given the close relationship between Cuba and Venezuela, that an economic and a political impact on Cuba will have an impact on Maduro as well," said John Bolton, the national security adviser.

First, the changes would restrict leisure travel to Cuba after flights and cruises opened up to the country more than two years ago.

“I think it's a giant step backward for travel and tourism,” said Donald Oneal Jr., president of Travel World, a Tampa travel agency.

Oneal’s company sends hundreds of families to Cuba, and he isn’t sure yet what to tell his clients who already have booked travel. He said he is waiting for information from the government.

“It doesn't appear to have much of an impact on the cruises there, but it looks like it's going to restrict a lot of the travel where people fly there and then do tours for three to five days,” said Oneal.

The policy reverses Obama-era engagement with the island, not only limiting travel to family visits but also cutting down the cash flow. Also, Cuban-American families won’t be able to send more than $1,000 per person, every three months, to family in Cuba.

“I think that families in general that send money on a regular basis like we do are not going to be affected at all because we were not sending as much money anyway,” said Marla Barreiro Sanchez, a USF student who is Cuban.

Sanchez said the tighter policies are supposed to force the Cuban government to support its people.

“So if you don't have tourists coming in, what is your input of money? You don't have none,” she said.

But Sanchez said her family and friends aren’t hopeful another round of policy changes will help.

“We have been waiting 60 years for things to get better. At this point, we don't see anything that has been done as an improvement,” said Sanchez.

Cuban-Americans can continue traveling to reunite with families. Travel agents said they will have to wait and see what parameters these new policies set to see if it impacts trips that are already scheduled.