Skift Take

Compared with other U.S. sectors, the travel industry would be disproportionately impacted should U.S.-Cuba relations and travel policies get reversed. It's anyone's guess as to how President Trump will proceed regarding Cuba policies but that picture should become clearer later this month.

If President Donald Trump follows through and rolls back U.S. policies toward travel to Cuba, U.S.-based airlines and cruise lines could lose an estimated $3.5 billion and more than 10,000 jobs through 2021, according to a new study.

Engage Cuba, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works to end travel restrictions and the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, analyzed the potential impact of a Trump Cuba reset following a liberalization of policies under former President Barack Obama.

The analysis assumes a scenario in which the Trump administration reverses all agreements signed with Cuba since December 17, 2014, including legalized travel, a more welcoming policy toward Cuban refugees known as “wet foot, dry foot,” and general licenses for certain exports and research collaboration.

Estimates reflect potential job and economic impact losses after the four years of President Trump’s first term, which would end in January 2021.

Engage Cuba’s analysis didn’t examine how many U.S. jobs have actually been generated since the U.S. and Cuba began to normalize relations on December 2014, or the total economic impact since then. Instead, the study focuses on the number of jobs and amount of money that various industries, including travel, could lose if the U.S. reinstates travel restrictions for Americans who want to go to Cuba.

Americans aren’t permitted to visit the island as tourists but must go under one of a dozen approved categories.

Seven U.S. airlines such as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue and five cruise lines including Carnival Corp., Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean were part of the analysis.

Hotels were not considered in the analysis. Marriott International’s Starwood is the only U.S. hotel company to manage a property in Cuba with at least three more properties in the pipeline.

The estimates, however, could be less severe depending on what — or if — the president decides to reverse regarding policies toward Cuba.

U.S. airlines could lose nearly $512,000 each year or $2 billion and nearly 4,000 jobs through 2021, the study found, and cruise lines could lose more than $1.5 billion and more than 6,000 jobs over that span.

Those estimates consider U.S. airline and cruise employees who have already been hired because of new services to Cuba and also the number of employees that airlines and cruise lines potentially wouldn’t hire over the next four years if they had to cut back or cease their Cuba operations.

Rolling back liberalized U.S.-Cuba policies would add job-killing government regulations on U.S. businesses, said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba. “This directly conflicts with President Trump’s campaign promises of removing onerous regulations and red tape on U.S. businesses,” he said, in a statement.

Engage Cuba’s study also cites data from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida that found eliminating cruises to Cuba could adversely impact south Florida’s economy by $212.8.

The study also found the overall U.S. economy stands to lose some $6.6 billion and nearly 12,300 U.S. jobs through 2021 if U.S.-Cuba travel policies are reversed.

That means that 53 percent of total lost economic impact and 81 percent of the potential job losses would come from the travel industry.


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Tags: cuba, tourism, trump

Photo credit: The U.S. stands to lose billions of dollars and thousands of jobs should President Trump roll back Cuba travel policies. Pictured are tourists in Havana, Cuba. Howard Ignatius / Flickr

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