Most Americans would at least consider visiting Cuba if all travel restrictions were lifted, according to an informal survey by Travel Leaders, a Minneapolis-based network of travel agencies. While not scientific, the survey of nearly 1,000 Americans adds fuel to the debate over travel to the Communist-ruled island.
The results were released Tuesday, just days after the U.S. Treasury Department issued new guidelines to implement loosened restrictions on travel to Cuba that President Obama announced in January. Even with the new rules, most Americans are barred from visiting the island, except for narrowly defined purposes.
The online survey of 953 consumers, which relied heavily on social media such as Facebook and Twitter and was conducted March 10 through April 10, asked: "If all travel restrictions are lifted, how interested would you be in traveling to Cuba?"
Among respondents, 20.2% said "I'd go immediately"; 33% said "I might consider going"; 21.8% said "I would go as soon as I believed Cuba was ready for Americans"; and 23.2% said "I have no interest in going." The rest? About 1.7% said they had already been to Cuba.
Many such travelers may have gone legally. But thousands of Americans each year are estimated to visit Cuba illegally, typically by traveling through a third country. Although few individuals are penalized for breaking the longtime Cuba trade embargo — the basis for the travel restrictions — violators face penalties that could include civil fines of thousands of dollars.
Californians may be more eager to visit Cuba than the average American. Nearly 36% of the 53 survey respondents who identified themselves as Californians (listing your state of residence was optional) said they would go immediately if restrictions were lifted.
Given the small sample and informal methods, it's hard to gauge how well this survey represents Americans.
"While we don’t have any way of knowing, it would be fair to assume many of the people who completed the survey are travelers," Travel Leaders spokeswoman Kathy Gerhardt wrote in an email. "However, since it was re-tweeted and likely reposted on various personal Facebook pages, there is probably a mix of travelers and non-travelers."