Cuba's airport-related fees levied on U.S. air-charter companies average $120 per passenger, according to charter officials, which would bring in some $12 million for the 100,000 U.S. visitors last year and possibly double that amount this year.
And money sent by individual Cuban Americans to help family members amounts to an estimated $400 to $800 million a year, according to a 2004 study by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which noted some estimates put U.S. remittances as high as $1 billion a year.
Even with all major portions of the embargo still in place, such commercial ties between the United States and Cuba could easily exceed $2 billion a year.
Meanwhile, a series of intentional hurdles reflects the U.S. government's conflicted attitude toward dealing with the communist regime that has outlived nine U.S. presidents.
The cash-strapped island must pay in advance for U.S. goods, and with no banking ties between two nations, Cuba has to pay through a bank in a third country, typically France.
U.S. exporters need clearance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security. Cargo ships carrying goods from the United States must go directly to Cuba before visiting any other nations, and they are forbidden from picking up anything to haul elsewhere. Cuban food inspectors often can't get visas to visit U.S. facilities.
And the trade remains a one-way street. Virtually nothing can be imported to the United States from Cuba, with the exception of artwork, printed materials and recordings. Last year, that came to a grand total of $39,126.
That gives Cuba the curious distinction of helping the United States with its chronic balance of trade deficit, albeit in a token fashion.
The obstacles to Cuba trade have tipped the scales in favor of agribusiness Goliaths like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Tyson Foods.
For American businesses, there is only one customer in Cuba: Alimport, the government agency that coordinates purchases from the United States.
Small and mid-sized exporters are often spooked by the maze of regulations and the opaque process of selling to Cuba. More than a few would-be exporters have ventured to Havana trade fairs only to come home empty-handed.
``People [looking to export to Cuba] get discouraged,'' says Jay Brickman, vice president of government services at Crowley Maritime Corp. He travels frequently to Cuba for his company, which sends a cargo ship with chicken and other agricultural products to Havana from Port Everglades every week.
``They confuse being nicely received by the Cubans with the idea they're going to get business. Cuba is limited [in its ability to buy imports], and they're price-conscious. You almost have to have a certain passion to really want to be there,'' he said.
Some U.S. business executives imagine big opportunities in an untapped market. Others are drawn to the forbidden fruit.
Naples businessman John Parke Wright IV shipped beef cattle to Cuba from Port Everglades three years ago and flew to Havana to shepherd his herd from the dock.
Last year, Wright, a member of the Lykes family that owned vast agricultural lands in Cuba before they were seized in the revolution, exported 2,500 straws of Brahman bull semen from the J.D. Hudgins ranch in Hungerford, Texas, to impregnate Cuban heifers.