Tourist-hungry Cuba opens door to golf courses
REUTERS, May 5, 2010, 02.58am IST
HAVANA: Cuba has approved the development of golf courses, marinas and
other real estate projects by foreign investors to boost the
communist-run island's tourism industry, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero
said on Tuesday.
The measure appears to open doors to foreign companies that have
long-pending proposals to build at least 10 golf courses on the
Caribbean island, where there are now only two.
"With the objective of developing regions that today are virgin, a
policy was approved that permits real estate development associated with
tourism, fundamentally golf courses, marinas and other complementary
tourist investments," Marrero told a news conference at Cuba's annual
International Tourism Fair.
Marrero said the Cuban government was in advanced negotiations with
"several potential foreign partners" to build golf developments.
Golf is seen by cash-strapped Cuba as a way to attract more tourists to
the island, and more with money. Last year, 2.4 million tourists
visited, but they spent 12 percent less than in 2008, according to
Even with the decline, tourism brought in more than $2 billion last
year, or about 20 percent of Cuban's foreign exchange income. Marrero
said just over a million people visited Cuba in the first four months of
Cuba once had a dozen golf courses, but almost all were eliminated after
the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.
Havana has a nine-hole course used mostly by diplomats and foreign
business officials, and the beach resort of Varadero, 85 miles (135 km)
east of the capital has an 18-hole course.
The proposed courses would include construction of luxury condos and
homes, which has been a major sticking point in getting approval by the
Cuba prohibits foreign ownership, so golf course developers have
proposed they be given long leases for their projects.
The government permitted the construction of a handful of condominiums
in association with foreign companies at the end of the 1990s, most of
which were sold or rented to foreigners.
Dozens of luxury hotels also have been built in joint ventures with
international hotel chains.
A huge marina is being built at Varadero with the hope that US sailors
will one day make the 90-mile (144 km) trip across the Straits of
Florida to Cuba.
Americans are generally banned from visiting Cuba due to the 48-year-old
US trade embargo against the island, but legislation is pending in the
U.S. Congress to lift the ban.
Marrero did not offer other details about the new policy, but said the
official regulations would be published soon.
The new businesses "will permit the beginning of another stage for
development of Cuban tourism … in areas with tourist potential that
still aren't exploited," he said.