The article cites several “travel industry and diplomatic sources” in claiming that visitors from the U.S. have jumped over the past year. "Through October around 265,000 have traveled. November and December are the peak months, so we expect 330,000 will go to Cuba on direct flights from the United States this year," said airline charter company president Armando Garcia. Furthermore, an unnamed “U.S. State Department source” claimed that the estimated number of tourists from the U.S. to Cuba in 2010 would be over 400,000. Of these visitors the article claimed that most are of Cuban origin; thus implying that the easing of travel restrictions under the Obama administration has had a notable effect on travel.
Tourism is a key portion of a Cuban economy that has been hit hard by the global financial slowdown. Despite the U.S. embargo on Cuba being blamed for decimating the country’s cruise industry, the government has recently allowed foreign cruise ships to dock on the island. Furthermore, Cuban officials claimed that tourism revenue increased in the first nine months of this year by 3.5% with revenues reaching $1.35 billion.
In the meantime, existing U.S. travel restrictions on Cuba might not change any time soon; staunch anti-Castro critic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee after the Republican majority to that chamber gets sworn in next month. She may have to butt heads with incoming libertarian-leaning members, however, according to The Hill:
Although many conservatives have traditionally supported the ban as a way of pressuring Cuba's communist dictatorship, the incoming class of Republicans brings with it a libertarian streak that favors individual freedoms above government intrusion, many observers note.Image- Tampabay.com (“A British-style double-decker offers free sightseeing tours at Varadero beach in Cuba.”)
That position could place them at odds with GOP incumbents — notably Ros-Lehtinen — who have fought for years to keep U.S. restrictions on Cuba in place.
Online Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, FT.com, The Hill, Canadian Press