Cuba a Hot Spot for US Travelers? Not So Much

Airlines are scaling back flights to Cuba just months after launching them
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2017 1:44 PM CST
Why Aren't US Tourists Flocking to Cuba?
American tourists aren't flocking to Cuba as previously expected.   (Getty Images/ArtMarie)

It seems Cuba isn't the hot-spot destination US airlines thought it was going to be when they started offering flights to the communist nation for the first time in half a century last year. It started in November when American Airlines announced it was reducing its service to Cuba, the Miami Herald reports. According to Bloomberg, American Airlines cut total flights to Cuba by 25% and switched to smaller planes for some of its remaining flights. Silver Airways followed suit in December. Now JetBlue has announced it will be using smaller planes for its Cuba flights, reducing capacity by 300 seats per day. Meanwhile, so many British tourists are flocking to Cuba they're swamping the country's infrastructure, the Telegraph reports.

So why aren't American tourists doing the same? First, it remains technically illegal to go to Cuba solely for tourism under the US embargo still in place. Most Americans who now visit do so under "people-to-people" exchanges, one of several allowed categories. The restrictions put pressure on would-be tourists to mislead the US government—though travel experts tell Bloomberg that enforcement isn't strict—and has made airlines nervous about advertising Cuba as a destination. And after US flights to Cuba were announced, prices on the island skyrocketed, making everything from hotels to taxis unusually expensive. Finally, because of the ongoing embargo, visitors to Cuba can't use American credit cards, meaning they have to carry thousands of dollars in cash to pay for hotels and everything else. (Here's the first Cuban export to the US.)

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