Cuba Readies for American Tourists With 200,000 New Hotel Rooms and Ten Golf Courses

"The gringos can't help but spend their money. They are the easiest tourists to sell to. They never ask for discounts," Daniel Garcia, a used book seller who hawks his inventory to tourists on the streets of Old Havana, tells Bloomberg news.

He's not the only person in Cuba hoping that a potential lifting of America's 50 year ban on travel to the country could bring in scores of new tourists. In fact, several United States firms, currently forbidden from doing business on the island, met in Cancun, Mexico this week with Cuban tourism officials.

In the meantime, nine new hotels are scheduled to break ground in 2010 alone, and Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero predicts that as many as 200,000 new hotel rooms could be added in the "medium to long term."

Though the island nation doesn't have enough money to invest in luxury tourism infrastructure itself, it's courting outside investment and also hopes to build 10 golf courses.

In Washington, DC two bills that would lift many restrictions on American-Cuban affairs are currently in committee. Senators say they have the 60 votes necessary to pass the bill this summer. In the house the bill has 178 co-sponsors, and needs 218 yay votes to pass.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, is one of the Senators leading the charge. He's asked Cuba to release Alan P. Gross, a U.S. contractor, who's been held on the island since December to help ease relations and speed the passage of the bill.

President Obama has seemed open to making changes in U.S. policy towards Cuba, but has indicated he'd like to see the communist island drastically improve in the area of human rights.

However, Obama has recently gotten tougher with Cuba saying, "Instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era. Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist."

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