American tourism to the Caribbean nation of Cuba has climbed a surprising 36% since diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba have thawed in the past few months, a new study found.
According to the Associated Press, a University of Havana professor noted that the number of Americans with no family ties that have visited the island nation between 1 January and 9 May has risen dramatically from the same period last year. Cuba has also seen a 14% rise in international tourists in the same time period.
Statistics from Jose Luis Perello Cabrera found that 51,458 Americans visited Cuba between 1 January and 9 May, up from 37,459 in 2014. Cabrera, an economist at the University of Havana's tourism studies department, also found that thousands of Americans are sidestepping US restrictions on tourism by entering Cuba through a third country.
US visitors to Cuba up from 29,213 to 38,476
Direct visitors from the US to Cuba rose from 29,213 in that time period in 2014 to 38,476 visitors. The AP reported that an additional 12,982 Americans travelled to Cuba through a third country. Those tourists represent a 57% increase from the number of Americans who flew to Cuba from another country.
Cabrera told the AP that the top choices for Americans entering Cuba from a non-US location were Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Overall tourism in the communist country has risen 14%, the AP reported. Visitors from the United Kingdom were up 26%; from France, 25%; from Germany, 22%; and from Spain, 16%.
Relations between the US and Cuba have been steadily improving since US President Barack Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro announced on 17 December that they would restore full diplomatic relations. On 23 May, a fourth round of talks between the two countries ended with "significant progress" made, but no announcement as to when embassies would be reopened.
As previously reported by IBTimes UK, Americans will now be able to fly to Havana from New York on JetBlue Airlines. The airlines announced earlier this month that it will begin the flights on 3 July after the US lifts trade and travel restrictions on Cuba. Travelers will soon also be able to use ferry services from Florida.