Saturday,  November 26, 2022  3:49 am

Expedia facing $325,000 fine over Cuba travel sanction violations


Expedia facing $325,000 fine over Cuba travel sanction violations
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

Last April, the Trump administration increased its travel sanctions to Cuba, in an attempt to further restrict non-family travel to the island.

READ MORE: U.S. government bans cruise travel to Cuba

Two weeks ago (June 5), the U.S. government imposed a series of new sanctions on Cuba prohibiting travel via cruise ship and rescinding certain categories of authorized travel, which previously allowed U.S./Canadians citizens to visit Cuba under the people-to-people program.

Former President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy eased a number of restrictions for U.S. citizens, including those related to travel.

As a direct result, many big-name cruise companies, like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises, who all have itineraries to Cuba, were forced to cancel, resulting in thousands of customers losing out on their vacations.

Expedia fined

Expedia Group has agreed to pay $325,406 to the U.S. government for breaching Cuban travel sanctions between 2011 and 2014, which were quite different prior to Obama easing up on the sanctions in 2016.

According to a memo posted by the treasury department on June 13, Expedia Group will pay the fine as a result of assisting 2,221 persons, some of whom were Cuban nationals, with Cuba-related travel services prior to agency notice in apparent violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.

The document also states that the apparent violations occurred because certain Expedia foreign subsidiaries lacked an understanding of and familiarity with U.S. economic sanctions laws and Expedia employees overlooked particular aspects of Expedia’s business that presented risks of noncompliance with sanctions. 

Specifically, electronically booked travel resulted from failures or gaps in Expedia’s technical implementations and other measures to avoid such apparent violations.

In a statement to PAX, Josh deBerge, Expedia Group spokesperson, wrote:

“OFAC and Expedia reached a settlement regarding Expedia Group’s facilitation of travel transactions involving Cuba that took place between 2011 and 2014. Importantly, Expedia Group voluntarily reported the transactions at issue to OFAC, fully cooperated with OFAC throughout its review, and further enhanced its economic sanctions compliance program after first learning of the transactions. The transactions subject to this settlement occurred many years ago, and the compliance enhancements Expedia Group has made in the time since should help ensure these transactions could not happen at the company today. The company remains deeply committed to complying with U.S. economic sanctions.”

As it stands, Expedia no longer promotes any cruises to Cuba under its "Cruises" feature via the website, when searching from U.S.-based ports.

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