by Matt Alderton | January 22, 2015
A half-century U.S. embargo against Cuba has officially been lifted, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury reported last week. Following a Dec. 17 announcement by President Barack Obama, who promised to ease travel and trade restrictions between the United States and Cuba, the departments announced the publication of new regulations implementing the president's revised policy.

"The regulations published today are an important first step toward increased engagement that will expand our economic relationship and strengthen our people to people connections with Cuba," Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement. "Today's actions, which are being taken in coordination with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, give legal effect to the historic policy changes that President Obama announced on Dec. 17. Specifically, our regulations will change export policy and authorize the flow of certain goods and services to Cuba without a license, to spur private sector activity and encourage entrepreneurship in Cuba. These are smart changes in America's outdated policy that will help the Cuban people realize an improved standard of living, greater economic independence, and increased prosperity."

In a blog post published yesterday, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Executive Director Michael W. McCormick explained the impact of the new regulations on business and leisure travel.

"Most U.S. travelers still will be required to go on supervised group trips, but now virtually any U.S. company or organization can offer such trips without the paperwork and inspections that discouraged past expansion of travel to Cuba," McCormick said. "Some tour operators, already seeing unprecedented interest in legal travel to Cuba, expect some tourists to simply ignore the restrictions. American companies also now will be permitted to export telephones, computers, and Internet technology, and to send supplies to private Cuban firms. However, Cuban authorities have said nothing about the restrictions they might impose on U.S. products entering a country that has long frustrated foreign investors with bureaucratic obstacles and tapped-out infrastructure."

According to GBTA, U.S. airlines are "interested" in travel to Cuba, although no flights have yet been announced. "Commercial flights between the two nations are still some time away," McCormick continued. "Before airlines offer routine service from one country to another, the two governments must agree on the terms in a treaty. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue Airways have all expressed an interest in flying to the island nation."