– The U.S. began issuing official travel advisory for America’s ports of entry from Cuba and Yemen in the week before President Trump’s “America First” travel policies took effect, because both countries were problematic for U.S. travelers. “It’s really about Cuba. So this is the first target,” Patrick Rehberg, president of Melhado Travel, told me. Cuba closed off major ports of entry into the U.S. like Key West and Key West, Florida, after a massive Delta explosion in December 2016. At the same time, the U.S. embargo on Cuba is lifting as of January. Cuba still won’t make it easy for travelers to return directly from American to Cuban ports but despite the disjointed and uncertain policies, Rehberg says “the biggest effect of the U.S. rules change for Cuba are in the tourist traffic.” Cuba has long promoted the concept of “tourism as a bridge of peace.” Increased tourist traffic can help improve the living conditions of certain ethnic communities, said Eddie Herrera, chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, but still, “People need to be cautioned.” Meanwhile, over the next four months, an Australian Embassy in the near future will open in Aden, Yemen, where American travelers with visas must have the approval of a U.S. consulate. This could go a long way to decreasing mistrust between the U.S. and Yemen, Rehberg said. However, the nation is still unstable and travel advisories will likely remain in place. “As far as Yemen is concerned, we’re hearing that some of the people with the [Yemeni] army are moving back towards their areas, so they’re closer to being neutral, and we hope that this will improve the situation, but that is really what we see it being, ‘Are we going to have these border crossings?'”
– Panama has had and continues to have the most thorough travel advisory in the Americas, since 2015. The Central American nation fears terrorist groups could set up shop in Panama. “If they do move down there and build a nuclear facility, we’re going to have to deal with them,” Chucks Smith, senior commercial sales executive at Sunfoot Travel & Tours said. “If they do that, we know who to call to find out about security issues.” Both the U.S. and North Korea have been a very busy travel partner. “We are talking to both countries on a day-to-day basis,” Chris Paluga, director of product management for Pegasus Travel and Tours, told me. “Obviously the majority of our activity with China is done through China, but we’ve been working with North Korea as well.” North Korea officially quit its nuclear program in February and resumed tourism since then. As for the World Cup, the number of visas issued for World Cup travel to Russia has jumped fivefold in the last year. Russia’s Putin Government is opening up additional international airports to United States and European travelers. “There is a growing positive sentiment toward Russia,” Kelly Newkirk, vice president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, told me. “We have more visibility in Russia than we did pre-2014 crisis, which is very interesting, and we’re seeing the relationship with the U.S. having major improvements as well.” Moscow is the most visited destination in the whole of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ 16th Annual International World Parks Tour, which was recently held in Orlando, Florida. “It’s easy to get information about it, and it’s easy to get referrals from your friends in the U.S. and make that connection and build that in all of your planning,” Newkirk said.
By Heather Wolcott for U.S. News & World Report