EVERGREEN, Colo., Jan. 16, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The easing of travel restrictions between the US and Cuba will have only isolated near-term effects on air travel demand between the two nations, according to a just-released analysis.

While there will be increases in visitations by Cuban-Americans, any spike in traditional leisure travel or business travel is years away and will be dependent on a number of fundamental policy changes on the part of the Cuban government, none of which are affected by the recent changes in US policy.

Cuba: An Independent Analysis of US-Cuba Air Service Potential, finds that, while Cuba could be a huge leisure destination, that is not going to change as a result of the new US policies. "The fundamental challenges are lack of infrastructure and restrictions on tourist travel throughout this very exciting country," said Michael Boyd, president of the Colorado-based consulting firm. "Even if full unlimited scheduled air service were immediately allowed, the fact is that there aren't the hotel rooms, the ground transportation or the other systems that can accommodate massive increases in travelers."

Due to the lack of world-standard tourism infrastructure, the main increase in travel will be more Cuban-Americans traveling to the island to visit relatives. This, the report notes, will mainly benefit Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, because almost 60% of all Cuban-Americans reside in Southeast Florida. "The supposed bonanza of Cuba travel from airports around the country is mostly hype. The other current traffic stream is 'people-to-people' tours, which are very expensive and very tightly controlled once in Cuba. There's not much more demand in that category."

For the near term, the airline beneficiaries are expected to be American, JetBlue, and Spirit – all of which have a substantial presence at either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, and are in a strong position to provide the additional charter flights that may result from the liberalized travel restrictions. There will also be very robust potential for what few independent US commuter airlines are left, as there will be traffic demand to other Cuban cities that is not sufficient for large airliners, but perfect for small turboprops.

The extensive study reviews all factors that will be necessary to generate a true travel spike, and outlines where changes in Cuban policy are needed. "Cuba has enormous potential as a tourist destination – not only from the US, but from the rest of the world, most of which currently has no restrictions on citizens visiting the nation," Boyd noted.

What must change is the allowance of free visitor travel that allows access to all of the island, and the facilities to support and enhance such traffic. "Until the Cuban government decides to go in that direction, Cuba will remain an 'exotic' destination. And that means highly limited and low volume. Recent changes by the Obama Administration will not alter this reality."

The study is an independent project of Boyd Group International. A synopsis and the entire study are available through the company's website at www.AviationPlanning.com. Now in its 30th year, Boyd Group International is a multi-dimensional aviation consulting and research firm with headquarters in Evergreen, Colorado.

The firm hosts the annual International Aviation Forecast Summit, which is the premier event of its kind. This year, the Summit will be August 30 – September 1 in Las Vegas. Details are at www.AviationForecastSummit.com

Michael J. Boyd (303) 674-2000