News and Facts about Cuba

Cuba: What a Great Place to Visit! Never Mind the Dictatorship

Cuba: What a Great Place to Visit! Never Mind the Dictatorship
NBC's Matt Lauer points to numbers as a sign that Cuba is
flourishing under 's regime.
By Jeff Poor and Amy Menefee
Business & Media Institute
6/5/2007 4:39:31 PM

Cuba's a great place to live and visit – that's the word in the

With Michael Moore's "Sicko," a film that glorifies the Cuban
care system, just three weeks from debuting in theaters, Matt
Lauer hosted NBC's "Today Show" from Havana and praised it as a
"booming" .

Lauer addressed speculation that should Cuba's communist ,
Fidel Castro, die, there might be some sort of "impulsion" and the Cuban
government would collapse.

"In fact that didn't happen," said Lauer. "It looks as if the
contrary has occurred. There's stability here. Business is booming and
tourists are flocking here, some two million a year."

Lauer didn't emphasize that those tourists were flushing money
into the dictator's government and enjoying a Cuba that its residents
don't see. As Salon reported in 2002, beaches have been cut off
from everyday Cuban life. This policy of "tourism apartheid" had been
around for a decade before that, Damien Cave wrote.

That's why it's for Americans to to Cuba for
pleasure trips.

"All Americans need to know that foreign-owned resorts in Cuba
must pay wages – must pay the wages of their Cuban workers to the
government," said George W. Bush in a 2003 speech. "A good
soul in America who wants to be a tourist goes to a foreign-owned
resort, pays the bill – that money goes to the government. The
government, in turn, pays the workers a pittance in worthless pesos and
keeps the hard currency to prop up the dictator and his cronies. Illegal
tourism perpetuates the misery of the Cuban people."

Add to that the fact that two million visitors to this island of
more than 11 million pales when you compare it to other destinations.

Even U.S. cities that aren't traditionally recognized as tourist
destinations dwarf the island nation's visitor count:

? Baltimore, Md., with a metropolitan population of more than 2.5
million according to the 2000 U.S. Census, had a little more than 12
million tourists visit in 2005, according to Sara Hisamoto, public
relations manager for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors

? Detroit, Mich., with a metropolitan population of nearly 4.5 million,
had 15.9 million tourists in 2005, according to Caroline Artman,
spokeswoman for the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau.

? St. Louis, Mo., with a metropolitan population of nearly 2.7 million,
had 20.3 million tourists in 2004.

Two million tourists for an island the size of Cuba is barely a
drop in the bucket. A better comparison might be the Bahamas, a nation
made up of several islands with a population of only 305,655. It had 4.7
million visitors in 2006, according to The Bahama Journal.

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