Marina industry group plans trip to Cuba
By Doreen Hemlock,
Fort Lauderdale marina consultant plans people-to-people trip to Cuba,
as island aims to develop marinas.
Yachting to Cuba? When Washington lifts restrictions, at least 60,000
U.S. vessels would visit the island the
Cuba has plans for 23 marinas with more than 5,000 slips
Richard Graves dreams of the day when South Floridians can take their
yachts for a weekend in Cuba.
That’s why the Fort Lauderdale-based marina consultant is helping
organize a trip to explore the island’s marine scene, hoping to prepare
for a time of open U.S-Cuba travel as Cuba seeks to develop marinas.
Graves aims to accompany more than a dozen U.S. marine industry
specialists to Cuba from Feb. 18 to 22, just after Miami’s international
boat show. He hopes some participants at this month’s mammoth boat show
in Fort Lauderdale may sign up for the trip.
Washington’s 52-year-old embargo on Cuba restricts most U.S. business
with the communist-led island, but the Obama administration allows
people-to-people tours, such as the one Graves is developing with
licensed travel group Other Cuban Journeys.
Their group aims to meet folks from the veteran Marina Hemingway and the
expanding Marina Gaviota in Varadero, as well as Cubans in the arts,
budding businesses and other fields.
“The idea is to make contacts and get a visual. You have to start
understanding the culture to do business there one day,” said Graves.
“This is a long-term process.”
The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba now has just 15 marinas with
roughly 800 slips, an inventory basically frozen for half a century. But
the government has plans to add 23 marinas with more than 5,000 slips,
working with foreign investors.
Projects include expanding Gaviota Varadero marina to 1,200 slips to
become one of the Caribbean’s largest, Cuban officials have said.
A University of Florida study has estimated 60,000 U.S. vessels over 25
feet long would visit Cuba the first year after Washington lifts
restrictions on U.S. boat travel to the island.
“For boating and the marine industry, Cuba is a perfect gateway to the
Caribbean, eastern and western,” said Graves, who has done studies to
boost U.S. boating to the Caribbean overall.
Source: U.S. marina industry group plans trip to Cuba – Sun Sentinel –