Miami-Cuba Flights Are Booming

Emilio Morales* (Cafe Fuerte)

Travelers to Cuba: a legion of easily recognizable passengers at Miami International Airport
Travelers to Cuba: a legion of easily recognizable passengers at Miami International Airport

HAVANA TIMES — Despite an embargo which has now lasted more than fifty years, Miami became the city which reported the greatest number of flights to Cuba this summer.

A recent study on Cuba-bound US flights revealed that, in the course of 30 days of monitoring (from June 17 to July 17), more flights left for the island from Miami than from such major Canadian cities as Toronto and Montreal. The data represents a sample of a study currently being conducted by The Havana Consulting Group, to be completed by year’s end.

In recent years, those two Canadian cities figured at the top of Cuba’s tourism market, accounting for large volumes of tourists who visit Havana and other popular destinations around the island every year (1.1 million visitors in 2012).

When, following Fidel Castro’s revolution of 1959, Cuba broke all ties with the United States – its main trade partner until that point – the country lost the attendant benefits of these relations, from the testing of new US-made automobiles to the anticipated launching of novel products by Procter & Gamble.

Flights to Cuba were among the many services, products and offers that disappeared following the abrupt end of all diplomatic and financial relations between the two countries.

Today, more than fifty years after this political falling-out, Miami has once again become the most important source of Cuba-bound flights around the world.

More Destinations and Airlines

A total of 332 flights with seven different destinations in Cuba were registered during the study’s first month of monitoring. The most popular destination was Havana (reporting 230 flights, or 69.28 percent of Cuba-bound traffic). It was followed by Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Holguin and Santa Clara, reporting 29, 28, 22 and 15 flights, respectively.

Santiago de Cuba and Manzanillo (with four flights each) were the destinations which reported the least number of flights.

Below is a breakdown of Cuba-bound US flights over the period studied:

Destination

No. of Flights

%

Havana

230

69.28%

Camaguey

29

8.73%

Santiago de Cuba

4

1.20%

Holguin

22

6.63%

Manzanillo

4

1.20%

Cienfuegos

28

8.43%

Santa Clara

15

4.52%

Total

332

100.00%

The flights were offered by six different airlines, which employ planes with capacity for 150 passengers. Skyking reported the greatest number of flights (146). It was followed by World Atlantic (82) and American Airlines (54). The airlines with the least traffic between June and July were Sun Country Airlines, American Eagle and Miami Air.

Airline

No. of Flights

%

1 Skyking

146

43.98%

2 Sun Country Airlines

29

8.73%

3 World Atlantic

82

24.70%

4 American Airlines

54

16.27%

5 Miami Air

2

0.60%

6 American Eagle

19

5.72%

Total   332

100.00%

These market trends stem from policies which Barack Obama’s administration has been implementing since 2008, when he lifted travel restrictions which had limited the number of trips to the island by Cuban-Americans to a single trip every three years. As a result of the lifting of these restrictions, 573,968 people travelled to Cuba from the United States in 2012, making the United country Cuba’s second largest source of tourism that year.

US Market

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013/P

US (Non-Cuban)

40,521

41,904

52,455

63,046

73,566

98,050

107,399

US (Cuban-American)

204,178

265,042

334,999

409,562

440,284

475,936

521,314

US (Total)

244,699

306,946

387,454

472,608

513,850

573,986

628,713

The US Cuba tourism market has shown significant growth in terms of the number of Cuban-American and non-Cuban visitors to Cuba.

A total of 475,936 Cuban-Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012. If the rate at which US residents are traveling to Cuba keeps up, the figure could exceed that of 520,000 visitors this year.

People-to-People Exchanges

Trips organized as part of people-to-people exchanges, reinstated by the Obama administration in 2010, has led to an increase in visits by US citizens who are not of Cuban origin. Last year alone, Cuba received 98,050 such visitors, and the number is expected to exceed that of 107,000 in 2013.

Even though such trips aren’t organized with expressly “touristic” ends, they do spell considerable profits for all parties involved, so much for the travel agencies as for the Cuban government. The most expensive packages in the market are those sold to English-speaking travelers. For example, the price for a 12-day package ranges from US $ 6 to 8,000 per passenger.

The most significant development in this connection is that the increase in US tourism has compensated for the drop in European tourism over the last six years. The five main sources of Cuba-bound tourism in Europe continue to show a drop in visitors, reporting a decrease of 181,237 tourists from 2006 to 2011.

Cuba’s domestic market is also experiencing changes these days. In recent years, the country has witnessed a notable increase in domestic tourism within Cuba’s tourism network, and it is not uncommon to see Cuban émigrés enjoying a stay at a hotel in Varadero, Guardacalada and luxury keys in Villa Clara and Ciego de Avila next to their relatives on the island.

More Charter Companies

If US flights to Cuba have clearly been on the rise of late, the same may be said of agencies licensed to offer charter flights to the island. This year, the number of charter companies authorized to operate by the Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) went up to 31, from 12 licensed to operate in 2011.

Cuba’s reformed migratory law has also contributed to the market demands which skyrocketed following the lifting of US travel restrictions. This combination of liberalizing measures implemented by both governments has had directly led to an increase in the number of agencies licensed to fly to the island.

In 2013, the number of agencies operating in the United States licensed to sell tickets on Cuba-bound flights rose to 328, from the 68 which were operative in 2011.

A Multi-Million Dollar Business

The study also revealed that, in the period analyzed, travel agencies took in US $23,764,500 in profits from air ticket sales alone. This means daily profits of US $792,150, which could spell earnings of $289,134,750 a year for all companies operating in the market.

These figures do not include profits earned by these companies for passport services, tourist packages or overweight luggage fees.

Agencies aren’t the only ones making good profits. The growth of the market also implies a juicy business for Cuba. The study includes a questionnaire with 31 queries about trips to Cuba, remittances and travel expenses during trips to the island. The survey revealed that travelers to Cuba spend an average of $ 3,500 dollars in cash to cover expenses on the island.

If we consider that Cuba receives some 1,660 visitors a day, this means profits of some US $6,027,750 a day for the Cuban government, for a total of 2.2 billion a year (provided trends do not change).

Price

Number

Seats

Capacity

Total

Passanger

Cash Estimate

Destination

Tickets

Flights

Per plane

Sum

Estimate

Pax/Annual

Pax/ Annual

Havana**

469

230

150

16,423,500.00

34,500

428,875

1,501,062,500

Camaguey

499

29

150

2,170,650.00

4,350

52,925

185,237,500

Santiago de Cuba

479

4

150

287,400.00

600

7,300

25,550,000

Holguin**

495

22

150

1,650,000.00

3,300

41,063

143,718,750

Manzanillo

449

4

150

269,400.00

600

7,300

25,550,000

Cienfuegos

449

28

150

1,885,800.00

4,200

63,875

223,562,500

Santa Clara

479

15

150

1,077,750.00

2,250

27,375

95,812,500

Total

332

23,764,500.00

49,800

628,712.50

2,200,493,750.00

**Flights to Havana and Holguin departing from Tampa cost US $550.

These figures have been very well received by Havana. It is not surprising that, during a recent visit to Miami, two officials from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington made know that some other aspects related to Cuba’s economic reforms may be forthcoming.

Licking Their Chops

During an address aimed at a group of Cuban émigrés who support the normalization of US-Cuba relations, Consul General Llanio Gonzalez Perez referred to the creation of new laws aimed at extending Cuba’s economic reform process. One of these would be a new foreign investment law, which will allegedly allow Cuban émigrés to invest in the island.

The fact of the matter is the Cuban government has no other alternative. The lack of liquidity shown by Cuba’s economy was even one of the issues debated at the last session of the Cuban National Assembly (though the matter wasn’t directly mentioned in the meeting’s official reports).

In addition, Cuba is denied access to international financial mechanisms such as the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank; has seen its oil prospecting efforts in Cuban waters end in a veritable fiasco; faces the decline of the sugar industry and the profound crisis of Venezuela’s economy, which is already witnessing shortages of essential consumer products.

Should Cuban émigrés be permitted to invest in Cuba, the new legislation will face the hurdle of the US embargo, which forbids US citizens and residents from taking money to the island. The Cuban government, however, appears to have decided to reestablish the ties broken 50 years ago, and the dividends secured from tourism and remittances afford a push in this direction.
—–
*Economista cubano. Ex jefe de planeación estratégica de mercadotecnia en la corporación CIMEX y autor de los libros Cuba: ¿tránsito silencioso al capitalismo? y Marketing without Advertising, Brand Preference and Consumer Choice in Cuba. Es presidente de Havana Consulting Group, en Miami. Las tablas estadísticas empleadas en este artículo fueron elaboradas a partir de los resultados parciales de un estudio de THCG.



8 thoughts on “Miami-Cuba Flights Are Booming

  • So the “gusanos” are now helping to keep the regime afloat by bringing in some $2.2 billion per year.

    Fidel! !Vamos bien!

    Reply
    • USA.Cuba Embargo=Terrorism American Style

      Reply
      • What an absurd equation. That one country refuseing to buy the products of another country is labelled “terrorism”, or by others here as “genocide”, demonstrates the moral confusion and the Left.

        Ironically, you chose to post your trite slogan on a report about the $2.2 billion which US visitors brought to Cuba last year. That’s some embargo!

        Reply
        • Bullying is still bullying! US was natural trading partner for 400 years. Loser bigot

          Reply
  • Where are all the commenters who parrot the cruelties imposed on the Cuban people by the “genocidal embargo”? It would appear that US-style genocide pays well.

    Reply
  • It’s pretty well known that a good number of Yanks travel to Cuba via Canada. Their greatest fear is having their passports stamped in Cuba. What a farce. God bless Native Americans.

    Reply
  • Stand in the Miami airport at 5am on a Sunday, and it’s like watching a scene from the Godfather, where the families assemble, the women organize, the patriarchs nod but say little, and the muscle – tons of it, load tvs and luggage wrapped in blue plastic onto carts. Next door at the ticket counters, the planes for Dulles – US State Department personnel – are active. Cuba is readying for a new revolution, a raw capitalist one.

    Reply
  • the anti-castros are probably going over in droves ,visiting realtives, bring back cigars, finding a way to make a buck off the embargo. yet americans born in America cannot go unless they jump through hoops and sneak in to cuba. 55 years of this embargo cold war bullshit is enough. when the place opens up all americans then we will be free- but all I see is more Miami Cubans blasting castro yet going to cuba whenever they please.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day
Picture 1 of 1

Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico. By Ray McCloud Hensley (USA). Camera Google Pixel

Submit your pictures to our Photo of the Day section
You don’t have to be a professional photographer, just send an image (in black and white or color), with a photo caption indicating where it was taken (city and country), type of camera or cell you used, and a small description about it.
Note: it is better for our format if you send horizontal orientation pictures. Even square will work but vertical is a problem.
Send your picture with your name and birth country, or where you reside, to this email address: [email protected]