Judging by recent media reports, changes to some airlines’ schedules imply failure for Cuba’s future as a major destination for American travelers.
The truth is that the number of Americans going to Cuba is rising rapidly despite confusion over how to legally go there and despite relatively high prices.
Cuba is the only country in the world where Americans face travel restrictions. Americans must fit their purpose of travel into one of twelve categories, none of which is “vacation.” Most American travelers can easily self-certify their travel purpose into the “people-to-people” category which gives wide latitude to do such things as visit museums, conduct rum research or investigate salsa dancing.
Traveling to terrorist hot spots like key ally, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea remain open destinations for Americans. Thankfully, Americans are “protected” by twelve categories of travel lest capitalism rubs off on the Cubans. Or is it because communism might rub off on Americans?
Despite some growing pains, Cuba is a top destination of interest for Americans – especially affluent travelers looking for the authenticity that $100 billion of debt-fueled spending couldn’t buy in neighboring Puerto Rico.
Yes, in some cases, prices have risen a lot for certain hyper-central tourism activities in Old Havana. This is what happens when the world’s largest economy re-engages with one of the world’s smallest and the measurement period is in months. Market forces are providing a solution to Cuba’s growing pains through price adjustments and new construction.
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Consumers can easily avoid high prices. Investing a few minutes to insert a little adventure and discovery into your Cuba travel plans can yield a lot of money savings and memory making (many affluent travelers prefer this aspect of travel). Tour operators are probably your best option today.
Three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) approve of the decision to re-establish U.S. relations with Cuba, while nearly as many (73%) favor ending the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center conducted December 1-5, 2016.
Facts about Americans traveling to Cuba
In January, U.S. travelers to Cuba totaled 43,200, a 125% increase compared to the same month in 2016, according to Cuba government statistics.
From January to June 2016, non-family visits (excluding Cuban-Americans) increased from 76,183 to 136,913, according to Cuba government statistics. And newly-restored commercial air passenger service between the U.S. and Cuba didn’t start making a real impact until the forth quarter 2016.
Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s chief negotiator in talks with the U.S., estimated recently that the combined total of visits by Cuban-Americans and other U.S. travelers last year was 614,433, a 34% increase over 2015. Final statistics for 2016 will not be available until March or April.
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