The USA has eased travel restrictions that prevent travel to Cuba commencing in the fourth quarter of 2011. President Obama has said that he wanted to increase people-to-people contact between Americans and Cubans. The Cuban government has encouraged this. This is a big step for both countries. U.S.-Cuban relations have been strained since the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, and a 49-year-old U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba remains in effect. Tampa International Airport was among eight airports named to join those in New York, Miami and Los Angeles now allowed to offer flights to Cuba. The awarding of charter flights to Cuba from Tampa is just the beginning of additional U.S. service.. The number of airports allowed to host Cuba flights from Cuba will eventually be boosted from three to a dozen.
The State of Florida, by U.S. Census statistics, has the largest Cuban-American population in the entire nation and the Tampa Bay service area is ranked second in the nation only to the Miami-Dade County service area.. 110,000 Cuban-Americans live in Central Florida – 71 percent of them within an hour´s drive of Tampa International Airport. The Tampa Bay region today is home to the third largest population of its kind in the United States. The creation of Tampa International Airport as the new gateway airport to Cuba could provide an economic lift to the Tampa area. When the the administration eased of Cuba travel restrictions in 2008 by allowing flights between Miami and Cuba, it did provide small boost to Miami´s local economy. Until now, travelers headed to Cuba had to fly out of Miami.
While it is an encouraging beginning, it is not yet open travel to Cuba. The new rules broadly expand religious and academic travel, allowing members of religious groups as well as academics and full-time students to travel to Cuba, without having to apply for a specific license in Washington. U.S. travel to Cuba is still generally restricted to Americans with relatives in Cuba and to cultural, educational and religious groups.To qualify for the flights, passengers must have close relatives in Cuba, conduct business in the agriculture or medical sectors, or travel for education and religious purposes.
Local officials are optimistic that the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba is just the beginning the and will lead to more international flights to other destinations from Tampa International Airport. As travel expands to Cuba and the day comes when Cuba is fully open to trade and tourism, Florida and Tampa Bay stand to benefit. From a cruise perspective, adding Cuba as a destination would give a huge addition to the diversity of cruise lines and every cruise line is seriously looking at Tampa for that purpose.
Having Cuba as a trading partner is also likely to increase the port´s cargo business. Cuba is seen as being very important in the broader context of trade and a broader regional basis ? where Cuba is one of a number of countries served by direct shipments out of Tampa. Cuba will serve as a wayport to and from Guatemala, Honduras and other ports providing more business.. Shipping companies have applied to operate ferry service between Cuba and Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida. The sailing time between Tampa and Cuba would be about 18 hours and the cost will be about $350 round-trip. The ferries would have overnight accommodations and could carry 1,500 passengers and 600 cars.the
Cultural links with Cuba are also expanding. In October 2011 the wind quintet from Florida Orchestra made a lot of new friends at concert it gave in Havana. The quintet’s concert was the opening episode in a multiyear cultural exchange with Cuba that is raise the orchestra’s profile in the Tampa Bay area now creates the first impression of Cuba. The orchestra’s exchange with Cuba is intended to be as much and educational outreach to the island nation that has long-standing ties to Florida as it is an opportunity for performance. The full orchestra could make a trip to Cuba 2013. The group took advantage one of the new charter flights from Tampa international Airport to Havana which began operating in the latter part of 2011. Havana is a whole world away, yet it is just the hours flight from Tampa Bay. The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba will visit Tampa in November 2012 and will play at the Cuban Club in Ybor City.
It is still a long road to travel, but the groundwork is being laid to gradually trade with and travel to Cuba. This will have an economic impact on the economy of Tampa Bay and future implications for commercial real estate in Tampa. It will be a boon to Warehouse and Distribution properties in the port area of Tampa, suppliers of vertical reciprocating conveyors and fork lifts, as well as offices for administrative support.