Americans' interest in travel to Cuba increases

Online searches for travel from the U.S. to Cuba jumped 184% in the first quarter, compared with last year

Since the White House eased restrictions on travel to Cuba, online searches for travel to the Caribbean country from the U.S. shot up 184% in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2014, according to a study released Thursday.

The move by the Obama administration in January to reduce travel restrictions pushed Cuba up three spots on the list of most popular Caribbean destinations, ahead of Granada and the British Virgin Islands, according to a study of more than 800 million online searches and bookings worldwide by Sojern, a marketing firm in San Francisco.

Under the new rules, travel agents and airlines can book travel for U.S. citizens to Cuba without a special license from the U.S. Treasury Department if the travelers are Cuban Americans visiting family members or citizens traveling for educational, cultural or religious reasons.

Airlines and travel agents say they are ready to expand service to Cuba if restrictions are lifted to allow leisure trips for all Americans.

The Sojern study also found that travel searches are heavily influenced by acts of terrorism and financial developments, among other factors.

For example, after the March 18 terrorist attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Tunisia's capital, travel searches for the African country dropped by as much as 28% in March compared with a year earlier, the study said.

The study also found that a weaker euro has prompted more travel to Europe from around the world, but a strong U.S. dollar has yet to have negative effects on travel to the U.S.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
59°