TAMPA, Fla., March 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce celebrated the announcement that Tampa International Airport has been granted the authorization to serve as a port of entry and exit for nonstop flights to Cuba -- a historic milestone in a two-and-a-half year campaign.
"We thank the Obama Administration for recognizing the benefits of expanded air service to Tampa Bay area residents and businesses," said Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "Cuban-Americans in our community and businesses conducting legal trade with Cuba can now save time and money by flying nonstop from Tampa."
For two-and-a-half years the Chamber has led the effort to reestablish flights to Cuba in coordination with Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Tampa International Airport. Following the January 14 announcement that restrictions on flights to Cuba would be eased, the Chamber created a Cuba Flights Committee, co-chaired by local businessmen Jose Valiente and Jason Busto. This committee will work side by side with Tampa International Airport to help facilitate the next steps in growing the air service to Cuba.
"Tampa International Airport has received US government approval, but there is more work to be done," said Valiente. "Now we need to establish regular air service and help Cuban-Americans and businesses learn about the advantages of flying to Cuba through Tampa International Airport."
Tampa's relationship with Cuba dates back to 1539 when Hernando de Soto sailed from Cuba to Tampa Bay. As early as the 17th century, Cuban fisherman would frequent the Tampa Bay area on a seasonal basis, and, over time, the maritime connection became well established. In the 1850s Captain James McKay established regular commercial shipping service from Florida to Cuba through Tampa. In the 1880s Cuban immigrants established Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood as the cigar capital of the United States. On November 26, 1891 Jose Marti delivered his famous "Con Todos y Para el Bien de Todos" speech in Tampa. According to the 2009 American Community Survey, the Tampa Bay region today is home to approximately 91,516 Cuban-Americans, the third largest population of its kind in the United States.
The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is the leading business membership organization of the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County. Its mission is to enhance the community by building business success for its members through research, advocacy, leadership and education. For more information on the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, please visit www.tampachamber.com.
SOURCE Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce