If Trump reverses the U.S. Cuba policy, airlines and cruise lines could lose $3.5 billion

June 02–Cruise lines and airlines stand to lose $3.5 billion and more than 10,000 jobs over the course of President Donald Trump’s four-year term if the administration fully rolls back all of the United States’ Cuba regulations, according to a report by nonprofit Engage Cuba.

Trump is expected to change some of the relaxed regulations that former President Barack Obama put in place in December 2014, but the full scope of his Cuba plan is yet to be seen.

The report commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, which advocates for more open relations with the island nation, assumes a worst-case scenario in which Trump does away with legalized travel to Cuba, expanded remittances, general licenses for certain exports and research collaboration and even reinstates the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy — something that the White House has not directly indicated it plans to do.

Taking a gander at what a full reversal scenario may look like for the businesses that have moved full steam ahead into the Cuban market, Engage Cuba predicts that the travel sector will take a substantial hit and, by extension, Miami too.

If the Trump administration were to reverse all of Obama’s Cuba policies, $6.6. billion and nearly 12,300 jobs would be lost over four years, according to the Engage Cuba report. More than 50 percent of the revenue losses and more than 80 percent of the job cuts would be in the cruise and airline business. A large portion of that business originates at PortMiami and Miami International Airport.

“For instance, the industries closely linked to air travel … have invariably seen a greater demand for labor at airports with high Cuba traffic volume, such as Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale,” the report says.

Seven U.S. airlines fly to the country and nine American cruise lines have scheduled service to Cuba since tourism rules were relaxed to include 12 categories of authorized travel, including the popular “people to people” option that most Americans use. Airlines initially overshot demand for travel to Cuba, but have since adjusted their flights as the popularity of visiting the country remains high.

The airline industry stands to lose $512 million annually based on average ticket sales, according to Engage Cuba, and 3,990 jobs. The cruise industry would lose $392.2 million annually assuming all cruises sold out, and cost cruise lines 6,164 jobs, most in Florida.

But the report concedes many of its estimates are based on limited data. The number used for cruise revenue, for instance, is partially based on a survey on passenger expenditures conducted at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades. Many of its estimates, the report said, were “calculated using demand projections from secondary sources, imperfect primary data collection, and price averages, all of which contribute to a degree of uncertainty.”

Still, “this study represents our best guess given available data,” the report says.

Beyond travel, Engage Cuba predicts changes to current rules could diminish U.S. exports by $227.6 million per year, costing 1,359 jobs. Remittances to Cuba could be cut by $320 million annually, ending 782 jobs at money transfer companies.

If the Trump administration were to reinstate the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which allowed Cubans who set foot in the U.S. to stay in the country, taxpayers would be saddled with the $238 million annual burden that previously helped provide benefits to Cuban migrants, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

It is still unclear how many, if any, of the report’s findings will come to fruition, all of which are dependent on the scope and degree of the administration’s changes. Trump is expected to announce his Cuba policy in the coming weeks.

Chabeli Herrera, Hotel Online

June 5, 2017

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