News and Facts about Cuba

Tampa International Airport promotes Cuba routes

Tampa International promotes Cuba routes
By Yvette C. Hammett | Tribune Staff
Published: January 8, 2015 | Updated: January 8, 2015 at 08:44 PM

TAMPA — Anyone conducting a Google search for information on flights to
Cuba will find gotocuba.org at the top of the search results.

Tampa International Airport paid good money for that placement —
$20,000. But with the Obama administration announcing last month plans
to loosen restrictions and re-establish diplomatic relations with
Cuba, the airport wants to be ready, said Chris Minner, vice
of marketing for the airport.

The day the news broke from Washington, D.C., Minner had eight digital
billboards up around the region marketing the Cuba flights.

Already, the airport is raking in about $1 million annually from the
Cuba flights, when you count parking fees and concession spending. So,
growing passengers on those flights, scheduled five days a week during
the winter season, make the Google placement a worthwhile , he
said.

Since direct flights from Tampa International to Cuba began in 2011,
158,798 passengers have flown from here to Havana, Santa Clara or
Holguin. There are currently two carriers — ABC Charters and Cuba Travel
Service — flying from Tampa International.

Most of those passengers have come from right here in the Tampa Bay
region. When travel restrictions do loosen, it will likely mean more
travelers from around the nation coming through Tampa International
Airport to fly to Cuba, Minner said.

“Although we don’t yet know exactly what the new regulations will be, we
anticipate the direction will be toward making it easy for people to
travel to Cuba,” Minner said. “With a new liberalized relationship,
there is potential demand from all over the U.S. We think Tampa
International Airport is a far better alternative than flights from Miami.

“We spent $27 million improving our international arrival experience,
which is universally acclaimed,” he said. “We have nonstop flights on
low-cost carriers. People can get here easily on Frontier, Southwest,
Spirit or Jet Blue, none of which fly to Miami.” They can then get a
direct flight to Cuba.”

It’s great to be optimistic about what is to come, said Suzanne Carlson,
who owns a Tarpon Springs travel agency. But she’s not holding her
breath, she said, because it may be a while before restrictions are
loosened.

Carlson, president of Carlson Maritime Travel, a licensed travel service
provider to Cuba, said she has been booking trips to the island for four
years now. “I think it’s way too soon to know what the changes might
bring,” she said. “Although President Obama has announced he’d like to
loosen the rules and restrictions, everything moves very, very slowly.

“This is just my opinion, but I know that Cuba wants its name removed
from the terrorist list,” Carlson said. “That might be a first step.”

So far, Carlson said, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which
regulates who can come and go from the U.S. to Cuba, hasn’t changed any
of its rules. For now, she said, every individual has to have specific
permission and a license issued by the OFAC before traveling to Cuba.

Tampa International has included a ream of information on its
gotocuba.org web site about the rules and regulations in place at this
time for those wanting to travel to Cuba.

Source: Tampa International Airport promotes Cuba routes | TBO.com and
The Tampa Tribune –
http://tbo.com/news/business/tampa-international-airport-promotes-cuba-routes-20150108/

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