Cuba will reverse a decades-old travel ban and allow Cuban-born people to enter or leave the island aboard cruise ships according to a government announcement made on April 22. The change in policy comes following the controversy that erupted when Carnival Corporation declined to sell tickets to Cuban-born Americans.
After facing protesting crowds, lawsuits alleging discrimination, and politicians denouncing its actions, the cruise company not only reversed its decision and accepted reservations from people born in Cuba, but it also threatened to delay its inaugural May 1st cruise unless Cuban-born travelers were allowed aboard.
In response, in a statement published in the country’s official newspaper, the Castro government declared it would lift the travel ban and expressed its “intent of promoting mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.” Experts on Cuba, however, suggest the shift in policy was made to avoid losing the revenue generated by tourists. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism generated 10% of Cuba’s gross domestic product in 2014 and supported 124,000 jobs. The government’s statement also expressed that in the future, Cuba will also ease restrictions on Cubans traveling aboard private and recreational boats.
Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, said in a statement that the company has been working to reach an agreement with the Castro government since the beginning of discussions about travel to the island and that he worried negotiations would stall given the public outcry. “We made history in March, and we are a part of making history again,” he said. “Today’s development will impact countless lives in the future.