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Soon, This Is How You’ll Get to Cuba

In this March 13, 2015 photo, tourists ride a double-decker bus backdropped by an iron sculpture of Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto 'Che' Guevara on the facade of the Ministry of Interior in Revolution Square, in Havana, Cuba. Bookings to Cuba jumped 57 percent for one New York tour operator in the weeks after Washington said it would renew ties with Havana. In February, they were up 187 percent; and so far this month, nearly 250 percent.  (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
In this March 13, 2015 photo, tourists ride a double-decker bus backdropped by an iron sculpture of Cuban revolutionary hero Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara on the facade of the Ministry of Interior in Revolution Square, in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

(Bloomberg Business) – The U.S. travel industry has spent more than a half-century gazing over a narrow stretch of sea at Cuba, the once and future vacation paradise located just a 45-minute jaunt from one of America’s busiest airports.

A presidential declaration in December started the gradual normalization of relations—just last week, in a sign of progress, the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism—and touched off a rush in the tourism trade. Airbnb accommodations in Cuba, called casas particulares, have doubled to 2,000 since early April, when the lodging company announced its entry into the communist country. As diplomatic negotiations proceed, airlines, cruise lines, and ferry operators are salivating just offstage over the potential size of the U.S.-Cuba travel market.

“If something changed tomorrow, we have everything we need to fly,” says Scott Laurence, senior vice president of network planning at JetBlue Airways, which has been flying charters to Cuba from two Florida cities since 2011 and will start offering Cuban charter flights from New York on July 3. The U.S. Treasury currently authorizes 12 categories of travel to Cuba, including family visits, religious and athletic trips, professional research, journalism, and humanitarian projects.

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