How Castro Bilks U.S. "Purposeful" Travel

Sunday, November 23, 2014
If this is how Castro squeezes Cuban-American and "people-to-people" travel, just imagine the windfall it would receive from tourism.

After all, Americans (unlike Europeans and Canadians) are famously "generous" travelers.

And this doesn't include the huge profits (which stymie the landing fees) being made from U.S. travelers -- "people-to-people" in particular, which goes directly to the regime -- as they all stay at Cuban military-owned hotels and resorts, dine at their restaurants and party at their nightclubs.

Excerpts from The Tampa Tribune:

Fees for Americans a sore spot in Cuba travel

The battle for the Cuban charter flight business out of Tampa International Airport has landed in federal court, exposing what U.S. citizens must pay the secretive Cuban government for use of Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

The annual total is somewhere between $31 million and $62 million — more than any other nation pays, said one Cuba analyst — enough to make critics question whether the fee is covering actual costs or going to support Cuba’s ruling Castro regime.

Tampa International Airport, by comparison, received $14.6 million in landing fees during 2014 for flights from airlines based in every nation that lands here.

On a per-flight basis, the same U.S. plane that pays $275 for landing fees at Tampa International pays up to $24,000 in Havana.

The cost estimates on U.S.-Cuba flights is based on two factors: the revelation in court documents that landing fees range as high as $148 for each U.S. passenger, coupled with the projection that two-thirds of the 635,000 Americans traveling to the island nation in 2014 are destined for the capital city of Havana.

The $148 figure listed in the lawsuit is consistent with a U.S. charter company contract for landing rights in Havana obtained by the Tribune.

“All that money goes to the government, who then decides where it is spent, including military and security forces for surveillance,” said Jim Cason, mayor of Coral Gables, who was chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 2002 to 2005. “Anyone who believes otherwise is very naive.”

Cuba might even charge different fees to different U.S. charter companies, said Cason, the former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

“There is a tremendous amount of bribery in all of this,” Cason said. “If someone offered Cuba money for lower rates, they would take it. The system is totally open to corruption.”