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Flights To Cuba Fluctuate Due To Travel Restrictions

Tampa International Airport is one of five Florida airports offering service to Cuba.

Travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba have some airlines looking to change routes, while others are thinking of adding more flights.

After President Obama made changes allowing travel to Cuba in 2014, many companies lined up for access to flight routes to the island.

But in 2017, the Trump Administration cut back on casual travel to Cuba. The U.S. Department of Treasurysanction rules state “individual people-to-people non-academic educational travel will no longer be authorized.”

With more travel restrictions in place, demand for flights to Cuba has dropped across the U.S.

However, Florida still remains a hot-spot for travel to Cuba as the state has a large Cuban-American population. The changes haven’t made a huge impact as there are still daily, nonstop flights leaving from five major airports in Florida, including Tampa International.

Airlines are now looking to move departures from cities with less demand to include more routes leaving from Florida.

Johannes Werner, editor of online business site Cuba Standard, believes the restrictions are leading to less individual travel and more group bookings.

Werner argues that travelers are not the main ones who will be affected by these restrictions. Most effects will be felt by private business owners in Cuba.

“They are in a deep hole right in comparison to where they were one or two years ago,” said Werner. “We are talking about individual owners of beds and breakfasts, individual restaurants in Cuba. Their facilities are quite limited. They're fairly small. In other words, they cannot accommodate any group travel and if U.S. individual travelers are staying away, their market is falling apart.”

Werner is optimistic that even though flights are shifting, airlines and cruises won’t pull out of Cuba saying the travel industry is “very aware” of the long-term potential of the Cuban market.

“We are still in a really good spot right now when it comes to flights to Cuba from Florida compared to say five or six years ago when everybody just had to rely on charter airlines.”

Complete details on travel restrictions can be found on the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs page.

Rachel Smith is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2019.