GEORGETOWN, GUYANA — Cuba has come up with a new way to make its Caribbean neighbors nervous - not missiles or refugees, but hotel rooms.
The Communist country's effort to revamp its tourism industry caused anxious debate on the sidelines of this month's Caribbean Community summit. Leaders see the move as a threat to their own tourism, the biggest money-earner for many of the region's countries.
''I think that we had better sit up and realize that Cuba is a very effective competitor,'' former Barbados Prime Minister Bernard St. John says in an interview, adding that Cuba will have 40,000 rooms by 2000 - twice as many as Jamaica, which gets about 1.5 million visitors a year.
Some 800,000 tourists went to Cuba last year, and Havana hopes to attract 3.6 million annually in the next decade.
Also worrying Caribbean leaders are signs that Washington is considering allowing United States citizens to visit Cuba. Americans account for more than half the 13 million tourists who annually visit the 32 member states of the Caribbean Tourist Organization.