Obama signs a bill to boost US tourism promotion:
Looking for an edge in the global war for tourism dollars, US President Barack Obama Thursday signed into law moves to attract more overseas travelers (emphasis added).
Interesting way of putting it. One could argue that he’s already done much to attract “tourists” from places like Nigeria, Sudan and the Middle East, especially ones with names like Mohammed Atta and Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab. The terror issue aside, it appears TOTUS is getting economic advice from Castro.
Obama signed the act “which establishes a corporation for travel promotion to encourage international travel to the United States,” the White House said in a statement.
The effort is to be funded through a matching program featuring up to 100 million dollars in private sector contributions and a 10-dollar fee on foreign travelers who do not pay for a visa, with no money from US taxpayers (emphasis added).
Just what we need, a new quasi-governmental agency to regulate tourism. Note too, which countries travelers will foot the bill.
But critics said the fees imposed on travelers from visa-waiver countries, mostly in Europe, could deter some would-be tourists (emphasis added).
From the Wikipedia link above, this snippet gives you an idea how well Cuba’s state-run tourism industry operates:
Until 1997, contacts between tourists and Cubans were de facto outlawed by the Communist regime. Following the collapse of Cuba’s chief trading partner the Soviet Union, and the resulting economic crisis known as the Special Period, Cuba’s government embarked on a major program to restore old hotels, remaining old pre-communism American cars, and restore several Havana streets to their former glory, as well as build beach resorts to bolster the tourist industry in order to bring in much needed finance to the island. To ensure the isolation of international tourism from the state isolated Cuban society, it was to be promoted in enclave resorts where, as much as possible, tourists would be segregated from Cuban society, referred to as “enclave tourism” and “tourism apartheid”. Until 2008 Cubans were not allowed to enter such tourist only stores, hotels, restaurants, beaches, etc. By the late 1990s, tourism surpassed Cuba’s traditional export industry, sugar, as the nation’s leading source of revenue. Visitors come primarily from Canada and eastern Europe and tourist areas are highly concentrated around Varadero Beach, Cayo Coco, the beach areas north of Holguin, and Havana. The impact on Cuba’s socialist society and economy has been significant. However, in recent years Cuba’s tourism has decreased due to the economic recession, escalating foreign investment conflicts and fears, and internal economic restrictions. Since its reopening to tourism in the mid 1990s Cuba has not met the projected growth, has had relatively little restoration, and slow growth due in major part to the fact that many foreigners don’t feel secure investing in Cuba under its current regime and Cubans are still forbidden by the state from owning private property or participate in any development. Since then, the Dominican Republic has surpassed Cuba in tourism, new development, and investment.
One wonders if the legislation will include the construction of foreigners-only resorts here in the U.S. followed by rafts going the other way.
Update (March 9, 2010): Just when you think things can’t get crazier, he does this:
The Obama administration will accept no more public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing the nation’s oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters.
First I’ve heard of this, yet apparently “the time for debate is over.”
Another idea borrowed from Castro. In an island blessed with ideal climate year-round for agriculture and a plentiful supply of fish in the surrounding Carribean and Atlantic waters, the average Cuban “citizen” is not permitted to fish in Cuban waters (The Cuban Cuban Coast Guard shoots at “unauthorized” vessels on sight.) Instead, most Cubans are forced to subsist on meagre food rations the government deems sufficient.
To each according to their needs, etc., eh Comrades?