Weekly Chart: A Snapshot of U.S.-Cuba Travel and Trade Today

By Elizabeth Gonzalez

As the Trump administration reviews U.S. policy towards Cuba, American exports and visitors to the island are on the rise.

Don’t wait much longer to book your trip to Cuba. On February 3, the new U.S. administration announced it would conduct a “full review” of U.S. policy toward Cuba. Potentially on the chopping block: the new travel regulations that allow Americans to visit the island, granted under 12 licenses implemented under Obama. But the airlines and cruise companies that started making commercial trips there in 2016 don’t have plans to change course; a 74 percent increase in U.S. visitors to the island from 2015 to 2016 means their services are in demand. American Airlines opened its first Cuba office on February 1 in Havana, and Royal Caribbean has already scheduled cruises through November.

Meanwhile, trade could be the dream that never took flight. U.S. congressmen have introduced several pieces of legislation that either remove the embargo completely or facilitate agricultural exports in particular, seeing in Cuba a missed opportunity to access a market just 90 miles off the Florida coast. While the United States sends some exports—primarily food—since the administration of President Bill Clinton, 2016 exports to Cuba totaled $214 million and are a third of what they were in 2008, when they peaked at $711 million. At that point, a suffering domestic economy coupled with the U.S. requirement to pay cash upfront made Cuba turn to buy exports from other countries that could offer credit. China, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Italy all sell more to the island, leaving the United States in seventh place as of 2014.

U.S. imports from Cuba are likely to continue to be near non-existent. On January 24, a Florida port received a shipment of Cuban charcoal, the first Cuban export in over 50 years, made possible by an Obama policy change. Florida Governor Rick Scott, however, has come out against trade relations, threatening to withhold funding from such ports.

With the rapprochement in review, AS/COA Online looks at where U.S.-Cuba travel and trade stand today.