Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:24pm EDT
HAVANA (Reuters) - Air travel between the United States and Cuba will
become easier with the opening of charter flights to the forbidden
island from an additional nine U.S. cities announced by Cuba authorities
Cuban travel agency Havanatur Celimar said it added the cities of Tampa,
Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas,
Houston and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the list from where charter
flights would be accepted.
Cuba is preparing for an increase in visitors from its long-time
ideological foe under a recent loosening of travel restrictions by the
The United States, which maintains comprehensive sanctions on the
communist-run island and bans tourism to Cuba, does not allow regular
commercial flights between the two countries.
But the Obama administration has lifted all restrictions on Cuban
Americans visiting their homeland and allowed religious, academic and
other professional travel by Americans to Cuba.
Havana Celimar has a monopoly on the Cuban end of U.S. charter flights
and already receives travelers on flights from Miami, New York and Los
The number of U.S. citizens visiting Cuba increased last year by 20
percent, to 63,000, according to Cuban statistics.
Some 350,000 Cuban Americans visited Cuba in 2010 after the Obama
administration lifted all restrictions on their travel.
The travel opening annoyed Cuban American lawmakers who have introduced
legislation in Congress that would reimpose a Bush-era restriction on
Cuban American travel to the island of only one visit every three years
and more strictly enforce the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba.
The lawmakers argue that the Obama administration is helping prop up the
Cuban government, while the White House counters more people-to-people
contact is the best way to undermine the island's communist system.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any move to undercut his
people-to-people policy toward Cuba.
Cuba has said it had 2.53 million tourists in 2010, with Canada the
largest provider at nearly 945,000, followed by Britain at 174,000 and
Italy at 112,000.
Tourism is one of Cuba's most important earners of foreign exchange,
with revenues of $2.2 billion last year, and an important provider of jobs.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
Tag: Transport, Tourism, Economy