Floridians seem interested in making a visit to our closest southern neighbor, with nearly half surveyed in a recent poll by USF Sarasota-Manatee researchers saying they would like to go to the island nation.
The poll shows 91 percent of respondents supporting the elimination of travel restrictions to Cuba and a slightly higher percentage say the Cuban embargo should end. The research was conducted by Cihan Cobanoglu of the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership and graduate student Adrianna Ramirez.
Thirty-four percent indicated they would not travel to Cuba and 19 percent were undecided in the poll, which was conducted nationally and posed 20 questions that elicited 467 responses.
Among other findings:
• Thirty-seven percent would travel to Cuba “as soon as they believed Cuba was ready for Americans.”
• Twenty-one percent would travel there “when there is an American embassy.”
• Nineteen percent would plan a trip to Cuba for “next year’s vacation” if the travel ban was removed.
• Eight percent would travel to Cuba, “within the first year” of restrictions being removed.
Most respondents — 67 percent — said they would stay a week, about three-quarters would travel by plane — only 22 percent by cruise ship or ferry — and almost half would rent a car upon arrival. About 40 percent would hire a local tour operator.
Cobanoglu, director of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology & Innovation at USF Sarasota-Manatee, said he was surprised at the number of respondents who wanted the travel ban lifted. “It shows me that Americans are open to the idea of change, and that they would support a change in a policy that has been in place the last 50-plus years,” he said.
The researcher also said he was struck by how many respondents favored “an authentic” experience rooted in Cuban culture and that many preferred the island’s tourism centers and beaches refrain from becoming “too Americanized.”
Of the 467 respondents surveyed, 92 percent identified as U.S.-born, 44 percent said they were Democrats, 20 percent Republican and 29 percent as no-party affiliation. Most — 69 percent — were 26 to 54 years old, with 38 percent from 26 to 34 years old and 31 percent from 35 to 54. The respondents were split evenly by gender.
The idea for the poll arose in March after a conversation with Ramirez, a Cuban exile. It was conducted throughout May using software to distribute the survey to random email addresses. It also was posted on Facebook.
Ramirez, who is pursuing a masters of business administration and who holds a master’s degree in hospitality management, said she approached the project with mixed feelings, having fled Cuba when she was 8. Ramirez, her mother and younger sister left just after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. Her father came to the U.S. six months later.
“I think in general what caught my eye is the trend or direction the United States is going in with respect to attitudes toward Cuba, by favoring travel to Cuba,” she said.
Staff report, Herald Tribune
June 15, 2015