SAINT LEO, FL – Sixty-three percent of Floridians approve of the Obama administration relaxing trade policies with communist-controlled Cuba, and 58 percent are at least somewhat supportive of having direct ferry or cruise ship service from US ports, a new survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows.
The poll shows 43 percent feel trade should be opened gradually and selectively, while another 20 percent favor faster expansion of trade, for a combined 63 percent favoring an expansion of trade over the current levels.
Regarding water travel, 58 percent of Florida respondents would either strongly or somewhat support direct ferry or cruise ship service between U.S. ports and Cuba, compared to 30 percent who would somewhat or strongly oppose this new access. Responses in two Florida port cities echoed statewide sentiments. Miami voiced 61 percent of strongly or somewhat supporting direct service compared to 31 percent strongly or somewhat opposed. Tampa voiced 58 percent strongly or somewhat supporting and 32 percent strongly or somewhat opposed.
Although Florida respondents tend to look favorably on expanding trade with Cuba, fewer are thinking of traveling there. When asked how interested they are in a trip, 35 percent said “not at all interested,” and 25 percent said “somewhat interested.” Another 21 percent said they are “very interested.”
Sixty-four percent of Floridians considering a trip to Cuba cited general curiosity as a motivating influence. The next most popular attractions selected were: arts and culture at 50 percent; history and politics at 33 percent; proximity at 24 percent; environment and ecology at 23 percent; and family ties at 13 percent.
Americans’ perception of Cuba and older infrastructure may dampen immediate tourist interest, said Peter Marian, a Saint Leo instructor of international hospitality and tourism. “Can they handle an influx of visitors including cruise ships with 3,000 people getting off at the same time and expecting island excursions, lodging, transportation, safety, and can they provide positive dining experiences for all?” The tourism trade will perhaps build over a decade’s time, Marian said, if tourists’ needs are met and people report positive experiences.