US Visitation to Cuba Rises Significantly in Wake of New Policy
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Cuba has experienced an impressive rise in American visitors in the months since President Barack Obama announced eased restrictions on U.S. travel to the Caribbean island.
According to statistics provided to the Associated Press by University of Havana professor Jose Luis Perello Cabrera, the number of U.S. visitors with no family ties to Cuba from Jan. 1 through May 9 of this year increased a whopping 36 percent compared to the same period in 2014.
Meanwhile, Cuba saw a 14 percent rise in visitors from all other parts of world during that time period.
Visitation from Europe, including the United Kingdom (up 26 percent), France (up 25 percent), Germany (up 22 percent), and Spain (up 16 percent) increased significantly over that period.
Of the 51,458 Americans who visited Cuba during the four-plus month period, a majority, 38,476, flew directly to Cuba from the U.S., while 12,982 entered via third countries, like Mexico for example.
The former figure rose by more than 9,000 from 29,213 during the same period last year. However, the latter figure represents a massive 57 percent increase over the 8,246 Americans who made their way to Cuba through a different country between Jan. 1 and May 9 of 2014.
Perello identified Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands as the most popular third country entry points for Americans visiting Cuba.
While U.S. tourism to Cuba remains prohibited, the White House's new policy makes it easier to access the island by doing away with special license requirements and authorizing travel for people whose trip falls into any one of a dozen different categories.
The rising tourism figures come less than three weeks after the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments approved select ferry service to Cuba. Meanwhile, the first direct flight from the U.S. to Cuba, without the special requirements, was completed in March.
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