An excerpt from today's Miami Herald:
U.S. companies involved in travel to Cuba began making feverish preparations in 2011 to expand the number of charter flight. Commercial flights to Cuba are not allowed because of the trade embargo, and charters require special U.S. government permits.
For one, the Obama administration had just announced that it would allow non-Cuban Americans to license educational trips to the island known as “people-to-people” visits. Cuban Americans can go at will on family reunification trips.
Cuba’s state-owned Havanatur Celimar tourism agency, controlled by military officers relatively new to the tourism industry, also leaned on the charter companies to add new flights, said the industry officials. They asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
Havanatur may have really believed that lots more U.S. visitors would be arriving, one of the officials noted. But there were also rumors that some of the U.S. firms bribed Cuban officials to obtain permissions for the extra flights.