Cuban charter flights from U.S. in decline as scheduled routes from America take off

Posted: 05-Oct-16 10:23

As new flights from mainland USA to Cuba begin, the future for charter businesses could well be diversification and niche specialist tour operations. Educational, research or other specialised trips could soon be the mainstay for those firms who have been flying to Cuba for decades.

Cuban charter flights from U.S. in decline as scheduled routes from America take off

As reported by Trade Travel Caribbean, with Cuba's travel and tourism economy currently experiencing something of a golden era, or at least boom period, transport connecting the Caribbean island with mainland U.S.A. is undergoing its biggest wholesale change since the 1970s.

In many ways the overhaul is really all about making the numbers add up. Up until 2015, travel to the socialist nation was seriously restricted by sanctions that were put in place by Washington D.C. during the 1960s. This prevented easy passage for American citizens, made trade and business relationships almost impossible, and ensured Cuba remained very much off the beaten track for anyone with a U.S. passport and a case of wanderlust.

The result being a notably un-Americanised culture, and while this is beginning to change following the re-instatement of diplomatic relations under the Obama administration, for the time being Cuba remains a wholly independent and unique destination for any travellers. This, combined with improved transport links back to the U.S., has led to an exponential interest in visiting from the States, with the number of arrivals growing year on year.

So what does this mean for the travel economy? Well, for one thing, the new rules and regulations mean that charter airlines are not going to be competing against a new band of scheduled carriers, which have just been approved to begin operating routes from the U.S. to Cuba. Airlines include JetBlue, Sliver Airways, Delta, and American Airlines, which will now be providing 56 flights per week alone.

This may not be all bad news for charter firms, mind. Although many have been pulling routes that would otherwise have meant going head-to-head in competition against commercial scheduled airlines, it seems that diversification is being seen as a potential way out. This means focussing on niche and specialist tours, providing assistance with the notoriously complex Cuban visa system, and making hotel and other reservations on behalf of travellers, giving them far less to worry about once they step off the plane on the island.

Michael Zuccato, co-founder of charter business Cuba Travel Services said:

"The tour side is where the growth is going to come from."

Explaining how the long-term plan is to move into hotel management and the provision of services to visitors from overseas, with the complete removal of the decade-spanning embargo now much closer to becoming a reality. Currently, only Americans that fit into one of 12 categories are eligible for travel to Cuba, including people-to-people tours, family visitation, or those on educational, humanitarian or religious trips, which should mean many operators are well positioned for the expected demand.


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