The number of people visiting Cuba from the United States has dropped 25% since new U.S. travel restrictions took effect this summer, Cuba’s tourism minister said Wednesday.
That trend isn’t expected to change before the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 2, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said.
“These measures have really pressed down the flow of American tourists ... and Cubans residing in the United States,” Marrero told a news conference. “We are hoping for recovery after November.”
The Bush administration tightened travel restrictions June 30 as part of a package of measures aimed at squeezing the communist country’s economy and pushing out President Fidel Castro. Cuban authorities called it an electoral ploy to placate anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Florida.
Bush’s opponent, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, also supports the U.S. embargo against Cuba but has said he wants a review of American policy toward the island, including a long-standing travel ban.
Cuban-Americans, who make up a large chunk of the 150,000 people estimated to travel to Cuba from the United States each year, were most affected by the new rules. They can now legally travel to the island only once every three years rather than annually.
Marrero said some people were skirting the new rules by traveling to Cuba through other countries such as Mexico and the Bahamas.
Despite the restrictions, Marrero said he was confident Cuba would meet its goal of hosting 2 million tourists, mainly from Canada and Europe, by year’s end.