CUBA

Tampa Bay Times - - From The Front Page - Con­tact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@ tam­pabay.com. Fol­low @ PGuz­zoTimes.

runs 60 to 70 percent of the na­tion’s tourism in­dus­try.

The an­nounce­ment it­self was ex­pected to have a chill­ing af­fect. In­stead, the num­ber of peo­ple trav­el­ling be­tween Tampa and Ha­vana has soared. The num­ber in both July and Au­gust in­creased by 4,000 over the same pe­ri­ods the previous year — to 14,162 in July and 12,003 in Au­gust.

That’s consistent with the av­er­age monthly to­tals ear­lier in 2017, push­ing the year-to-date to­tal to 89,800 — al­ready sur­pass­ing the 80,200 recorded for all of 2016.

This is de­spite the added com­pe­ti­tion from two cruise lines.

“Our Cuba cruises from Tampa have been prov­ing very pop­u­lar and con­tinue to sell well,” said Car­ni­val Cruise Line spokes­woman Jen­nifer de la Cruz.

What’s more, Amer­i­can, Delta, Jet Blue, United and South­west are now com­pet­ing for three open com­mer­cial routes to Ha­vana to be al­lo­cated by the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

They want the new busi­ness to fly from Mi­ami, Fort Laud­erdale, Bos­ton and Hous­ton. South­west, which op­er­ates daily flights be­tween Ha­vana and Tampa, wants to in­crease its daily Fort Laud­erdale-Ha­vana routes from two to three.

Reno of Cuba Ex­ec­u­tive Travel has con­tin­ued to take at least one group to Cuba every few weeks, just as he did be­fore Trump an­nounced the pend­ing re­stric­tions.

But even be­fore the new travel warn­ing, Reno said, “I do think con­cerns have in­creased about the pol­i­tics and the ram­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Carlson Mar­itime Travel was al­ready feel­ing it.

The Tar­pon Springs com­pany had ar­ranged to send a group of golfers to Va­radero in Oc­to­ber to par­tic­i­pate in the Cuba Gulf Grand Tour­na­ment. But the golfers can­celed soon af­ter Trump an­nounced his poli­cies.

Amer­i­cans who felt po­lit­i­cally safe vis­it­ing Cuba when Obama was in office, said com­pany pres­i­dent Carlson, now won­der “how go­ing will make them look. Peo­ple are hes­i­tant.”

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