Sloppy Reporting on Cuba Travel

Monday, January 6, 2014
The U.S. government does not release any data on the number of licensed American travelers to Cuba.

As such, figures reported on the number of licensed American travelers to Cuba are based on best-guesses, which make them highly inaccurate.

This should make journalists more cautious about loosely throwing around figures for licensed Americans traveling to Cuba.

Except, apparently, The Miami Herald.

In a story today about charter trips to Cuba, The Miami Herald took the liberty to present its travel figures as fact, without citation or documentation.

To be fair, the overall premise of The Miami Herald's story is correct:

Since 2011, when the Obama Administration authorized charter travel to Cuba from over a dozen U.S. cities -- from New York to Los Angeles -- none of them have taken off.

Literally.

Despite great speculation and fanfare, none of them are offering a single charter flight to Cuba.

Currently, charter flights to Cuba are only available from Miami, Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale.

This is easy to document -- just confirm whether any chartered planes are flying to Cuba from the authorized airports.

But then, The Miami Herald gets sloppy in presenting overall travel figures:

"Even though 98,050 Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012 on people-to-people tours designed to increase links with the Cuban people, and almost as many took the tours through Nov. 15, 2013, Cuban-Americans visiting family members, and increasingly to do business in Cuba, account for the majority of the trips."

Where did this 98,050 figure come from for "people-to-people tours"?

The Miami Herald fails to disclose its source, but it comes from the Castro regime's official statistics agency, Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas (ONE).

Interestingly enough, the same ONE chart claims that 63,046 of these American travelers visited Cuba in 2010. 

Except "people-to-people" travel wasn't authorized by the Obama Administration until January 2011.

Oops.

Moreover, the quote above suggests that Cuban-Americans are traveling to Cuba "...increasingly to do business."

That would be illegal.

So please do tell who these Cuban-Americans are and what business they are "increasingly" traveling to Cuba for.

For that would be a story.

The Miami Herald then proceeds to state:

"During 2012, 475,936 Cuban-Americans traveled to the island; through Nov. 15, 2013, the figure was 471,994, making it likely the 2012 number was surpassed by the end of the year."

Once again, no citation or documentation.

In a similar story, Reuters had recently written "...more than 350,000 Cuban-Americans estimated by travel agents and U.S. diplomats to have visited the island last year."

So where did The Miami Herald get its figure?

The next paragraph offers a clue.

"Miami-based The Havana Consulting Group estimates that combined number of Cuban-American and people-to-people travelers will probably exceed 600,000 in 2013."

Ah, it got the figure from a recent "study" by the Havana Consulting Group, an outfit run out of Miami by former Castro regime officials.

So how does the Havana Consulting Group conjure up its figures?

Unlike The Miami Herald, the Havana Consulting Group -- to its credit -- actually discloses its methodology -- albeit highly questionable.

Basically, it "extrapolates" information and conjures up its numbers from Castro's ONE statistics, estimating charter flights and -- get this -- a non-scientific survey at Miami's Sedanos Supermarket.

No joke.

Havana Consulting Group conjures up these figures, which The Miami Herald then regurgitates without disclosure, based on a non-scientific survey it conducted of 822 people, nearly half of them cherry-picked at Sedanos Supermarket, while some others at El Presidente Supermarket and a couple of dozen at Publix.

It must be highly embarrassing for The Miami Herald to disclose this "Sedanos survey" -- but its readers deserve better.