What were Trump’s motives in Cuba?

When President Donald Trump last week announced changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba – including prohibiting transactions incidental to travel with GAESA (the government arm that owns most of the hotels) and its affiliates, subsidiaries and successors – some mainstream media suggested he did this to neutralize Trump Hotels’ rivals and deny them a leg up in the tiny Caribbean nation.

To me, that type of reporting showed a lack of understanding about the hotel business. Trump Hotels doesn’t, and likely never will, compete with the likes of Marriott International, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels and global players like AccorHotels and Meliã Hotels International, which are already very active in the Cuban hotel market.

Marriott, for example, could announce more global deals in a week than it would likely announce in Cuba over the next decade. Not that it doesn’t matter to Marriott to have an important presence in Cuba as it grows its tourism base. And Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s stated disappointment in Trump’s policy change makes an even bigger statement about the importance of open borders for global tourism and generating greater understanding among all of us.

But in the greater scheme of things this is so much more about Trump doing what he said he’d do during his campaign – tearing up one-sided trade deals. This is a political move – not yet another move to protect his family business.

While it is unfortunate to stifle tourism growth and hotel development in Cuba, and to quell excitement about the possibility that the island would become more accessible to culturally curious Americans, I don’t think his intent was much more than politically motivated.

What do you think? How much does this move truly hurt the industry’s giants, and what do you think will happen next?

The sun sets behind Havana's Hotel Nacional.      Getty Images
The sun sets behind Havana’s Hotel Nacional. Getty Images