Watch out, Cuba! If you thought Batista and Castro were bad, wait until American tourists come calling!
Can Cuba cope with an onslaught of Americans?
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
Sun Apr 12, 1:32 pm
ETHAVANA – A push in Congress to do away with U.S. travel bans on Cuba could set off a flood of American visitors to the long-forbidden island.
But many wonder if a country where foreigners have long complained about lousy food, sluggish service and iffy infrastructure is ready for an onslaught of Americans unseen since the days of Meyer Lansky and Al Capone.
Cuba has about as many hotel rooms as Detroit and most are already full of Canadians and Europeans. Experts say droves of Americans could drive up prices, unleash calls for more flights and cruises than Cuba can handle and force the government to tighten visa restrictions to regulate the stampede.
“There is great pent-up demand,” said Bob Whitley, president of the United States Tour Operators Association, which opposes the travel ban. “It will have to be controlled by officials in Cuba, but also by U.S. tour operators to make sure the infrastructure is up to it.”
Bills in the U.S. House and Senate would effectively allow all Americans to visit. Trips for U.S. citizens with relatives here already got easier last month. Cuban-Americans can now come annually instead of every three years.
Cuba began encouraging international tourism after the fall of the Soviet Union, and its top feeder countries are Canada, Britain, Italy, Spain and France. Foreign tourist visits jumped 9.3 percent last year to a record 2.35 million, generating $2.7 billion or 11 percent more than 2007, the government says.