Skift reports that only few American tourists pass beyond Havana in Cuba

Posted: 04-Nov-16 11:56

While the number of American tourists traveling to Cuba is on the upswing, business owners who own guesthouses and hotels outside of Havana have seen few US tourists. The reasons are unclear, but it is believed that travel restrictions keep many Americans from venturing beyond the capital city of Havana. As a result, business owners in other parts of the country haven’t yet experienced the hoped-for tourism boom.

Skift reports that only few American tourists pass beyond Havana in Cuba

The change in relations between the US and Cuba has led to flurry of activity as airlines scramble to get approval and American tourists scramble to navigate the bureaucracy of visiting the previously forbidden island. Beyond Havana, however, few American tourists are arriving in Cuba.

The number of American tourists in Cuba is increasing, but their number is a fraction of what they are in other Caribbean destinations, such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. The number of US visitors to Cuba increased in 2015 by 77 percent, and will certainly increase this year now that commercial flights from the US have been approved. The first commercial flight from the US arrived in August, and most of the major US airlines have flights scheduled to begin in November and December.

The announcement of the normalization in relations sent aspiring entrepreneurs rushing to open hotels and guesthouses in smaller cities and towns throughout Cuba. This was particularly true in cities with a commercial airport with approved US flights, such as Santa Clara and Camaguey. At one point, some cities experienced an overcapacity of rooms with the rush to capitalize on the coming tourism boom.

For the most part, however, the expected tourism boom hasn’t materialized. Though the first flight to Cuba in more than 50 years arrived in Santa Clara, most American tourists are booking hotels and "casa particulares" (private homes that function like bed-and-breakfasts) in Havana.

The reason that Americans are largely ignoring the surrounding country is anyone’s guess, but it likely has to do with travel restrictions which are still in place. In spite of the thaw in relations between the two countries, US law still prohibits Americans from traveling to Cuba as ordinary tourists. Visitors to the island are required to travel within one of twelve government-sanctioned categories, such as educational or journalistic activities. This means that Americans are still officially banned from enjoying Cuba’s famous beaches, although the degree to which this is enforced is unknown.

This trend is likely to change, however, later in the year when the number of US flights to Cuba increases and tourists begin arriving in cities like Holguin and Santa Clara.


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