According to the Cuban ministry, 74 percent more American citizens visited the island in 2016 than in 2015 and, following through on a pledge to President Obama, President Castro opened almost 400 new public Wi-Fi access points around Cuba.
President Donald Trump has announced that he will roll back much of the previous administration's policies to open Cuba to American investment in travel, saying that it was a "terrible and misguided deal" that only benefits the "repressive" Castro regime. USA travelers are engaging in what amounts to illegal tourism, but they are also pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts that are driving the growth of Cuba's nascent private sector.
Cuba's tourism ministry acknowledged that the tourism boom was linked directly to the renewal of diplomatic relations with the U.S. There are now commercial flights to Cuba, and cruise ships sailing from the Ports of Tampa and Miami.
Exempt from the ban will also be programs aimed at "building democracy in Cuba or further U.S. interests and certain transactions with airports and seaports dealing with travel and trade", such as docking and landing fees. Relaxed travel laws allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to visit Cuba for the first time.
" Individual educational trips to Cuba will be restricted. And you can tell where they are because there are dozens of people crowded around there", said Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban-American who served as commerce secretary in the George W. Bush administration.
When asked whether Trump is planning to announce the naming of an ambassador to Cuba anytime soon, Sanders said that she was not certain what the plans are on that subject or whether it would be included in the President's Friday announcement, reports Efe news. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart say more sanctions are needed.
The administration will consider benchmarks - free elections, the release of political prisoners and direct pay for Cuban workers - as progress that could eventually lead to the easing of the restrictions, according to the senior administration officials. "All the (U.S. economic) embargo has brought upon Cuba is misery".
Senior White House officials who briefed reporters Thursday on the coming announcement said Obama's overtures had enriched Cuba's military while repression increased on the island.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it will be business as usual for Canada and Cuba despite a renewed hardening of relations between the Communist island nation and the United States.
Trump will re-impose the requirement that "people-to-people" travelers can only come to Cuba with heavily regulated tour groups.
In his search for votes in Florida during the presidential campaign, Trump toughened his stance on Cuba and promised to rescind many of Obama's measures. US airlines and cruise ships would still be allowed to service the island.
He added, "Individual Americans can travel to #Cuba under Support for the Cuban people category but must use privately owned lodging like AirBnB".
The new policy is scheduled to go into effect in about 90 days.
"On the other hand, we think we've achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and its treatment of people", he said, "and it has little incentive to change that".
A sizeable portion of American Cubans disagreed with Obama's reconciliation with Havana, prompting them to opt for Trump, who called it a "bad deal".
Under the revised travel policy, U.S. officials say there will be tighter enforcement to make sure Americans legally fit the 12 authorized categories they claim to be traveling under, which could sorry many visitors, wary of receiving a hefty fine. Only the U.S. Congress can lift the embargo, and lawmakers, especially those of Cuban heritage, like Sen. Furthermore, isolation would not end Castro's regime.
"To expect different results from a policy that's not had any impact in terms of serious, significant improvements in...human rights or democracy in Cuba is highly unrealistic", Vivanco said.