American visitors to Cuba increase 80%
HAVANA, Cuba – The 136,913 Americans who visited Cuba in the first semester of 2016 represent nearly 80% more than the number registered last year, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI by its Spanish acronym).
Although they still can’t travel as tourists, but under one of 12 categories authorized by the U.S. government, Americans’ visits to Cuba are expected to rise even more in the second semester because regular flights among the nations were reestablished Aug. 31. The flights range between $100 to $200, considerably less expensive than the charter flights that connected the two countries, which charged more than $500.
Commercial flights will be reestablished as of Dec. 1 from Havana to several U.S. cities since direct routes that have been operating since September are set for other Cuban cities, such as Santa Clara, Camagüey, Cienfuegos and Varadero.
Another element that has favored the growing number of U.S. visitors are cruises to the island, which began in May with Fathom’s “Adonia,” a Carnival Cruise Line subsidiary, on which passengers didn’t travel as tourists, but under an “educational trip”category.
According to some analysts, when the U.S. lifts the prohibition to travel to the Caribbean island as tourists, some 2 million Americans may arrive in the first year, a number that may increase to 5 million medium-term, according to the Cuban News Agency cited by Cubadebate.
For the past few year,s Cuba has seen a surge in tourism, and at the end of 2015 reached a record 3.5 million tourists, a number it hopes to surpass this year, with 3.7 million visitors.
In the first half of this year 2.15 million tourists arrived in Cuba, led by U.S. visitors, followed by the Cuban community residing abroad, indicated the ONEI.