The establishment of official mechanisms has been accompanied by high-level visits, mostly from US representatives to Cuba. Three US Secretaries have visited the island: Sec. Thomas J. Vilsack (Agriculture) led a delegation to Cuba in November 2015; Sec. Penny Pritzker (Commerce) did it in October 2015 and Sec. John Kerry (State) visited Havana for the opening of the US Embassy in August 2015. Four Governors have travelled to Cuba accompanied by businesspersons of their States: Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe in January 2016, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in December 2015, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in September 2015 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2015. In addition, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy Daniel A. Sepulveda visited Cuba in January 2016 and Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas did it in October 2015. Not just US politicians and businesspersons have run to Havana to undertake President Obama’s new 50 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14
policy on Cuba or calibrate economic opportunities in the island. Another tangible variation is the increase on foreigners visiting Cuba, specially coming from the United States. Doing tourism in Cuba is still forbidden for Americans citizens by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. However, CubanAmericans can easily travel to the island as well as American citizens under the 12 categories of authorised travel. The growing interest on Cuba and the rush to visit it ‘before American tourists arrive’ has triggered the tourist activity. In 2015, Cuba received a record 3.52 million visitors, up 17.4 percent from 2014. American visits rose 77 percent to 161,000, not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans. In September 2015 alone, traditionally one of the slowest months for tourist arrivals in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean, the island welcomed nearly 200,000 visitors, a figure that was up 27.4 per cent from the same period in 2014.