Americans are visiting Cuba, but not in the numbers expected

Americans in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba -- It's been nearly a year since direct commercial flights began from the U.S. to Cuba -- and Americans are making trips to the communist nation long off-limits, but not in the numbers expected.

Claire Jerome from Boston is among the surging number of Americans visiting Cuba. Last year, nearly 300,000 went, up 74 percent.

"I thought there were many more Americans here, it seems like a good time to come visit the country," Jerome told CBS News.

U.S. carriers rushed to launch service to Cuba in August after the U.S. government approved 110 daily non-stops. But many are already cutting back.

Collin Laverty, who runs Cuba Educational Travel that organizes high-end tours, addressed a possible gold rush that never happened.

Collin Laverty CBS News

"I think it didn't happen as fast as people thought," he said.

"I think a lot of that has to do with confusion about the legality," Laverty said. "Once you book your ticket what do you do? How do you book a hotel, how do you book a tour? What support system is there here? There's a lot of confusion. It's a tough country to navigate."

Some analysts expect two million Americans to visit Cuba annually by 2025. But a new survey finds only 2 percent are likely to plan a trip in the next six months.

A view of Havana. CBS News

Several airlines see long-term potential, but American Airlines reduced the number of flights to several cities, and JetBlue is using smaller planes, dropping 300 seats a day.

On Wednesday, low-cost carrier Spirit will become the third U.S. airline to end all service to the island.

Cuba is lacking in tourist infrastructure and conveniences like Wi-Fi. Cruise ships seem to be the early winner as they bring the infrastructure with them.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave is the transportation correspondent for CBS News.