World-class golfing to be enjoyed during Cuba holidays as the island approves development of new golf courses
A cash-strapped, tourist-hungry Cuba is looking at ways of driving more tourism among the wealthiest travellers and with that purpose the country is in negotiation with foreign firms to build championship golf courses across the island.
For the enjoyment of all golf fanatics, Cuba holidays will now be catering to the golfing holiday market as the island approves the development of new championship golf courses, marinas and other real estate projects to be built with foreign capital provided by foreign investors. This new move is another step the country is taking to boost the tourism industry, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero revealed on Tuesday.
This new measure exploiting the potential of Cuba holidays as a golfers’ dream holiday destination seems to be opening doors to foreign companies that have long-pending proposals to build at least 10 golf courses on the Caribbean island, which currently accounts with only two.Havana currently has a nine-hole course used mostly by diplomats and foreign business officials, while the beach resort of Varadero, 85 miles east of the capital has an 18-hole course.
"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 said during a news conference at Cuba's annual International Tourism Fair (FITCUBA 2010) which is currently taking place in Havana.
Marrero also said that the Cuban government was in advanced negotiations with "several potential foreign partners" to build golf developments, revealing that many new projects might begin construction very soon.
Now a cash-strapped Cuba is seeing Golf as a way to attract more tourists to the island, especially the better-off wealthy market that come to enjoy luxury Cuba holidays. According to government statistics even when last year, 2.4 million tourists took Cuba holidays, they spent 12% less than in 2008, and tourism officials want to do something to drive big spenders to take luxury holidays in Cuba.
Despite the decline, tourism still managed to bring in more than $2 billion in 2009, or about 20% of Cuban's foreign exchange income. To this Marrero added that just over a million people visited Cuba in the first four months of 2010 so the trend is looking upwards, whether in terms of profitability or popularity (or both) yer remains to be seen.
Cuba once had a dozen golf courses, but as most of them were privately owned, almost all were eliminated after the 1959 revolution when Fidel Castro came in power. Since then only a very small segment from the ludicrous golfing market come to Cuba holidays for golfing.
The proposed courses would include construction of luxury condos and homes, which has been a major sticking point in getting approval by the government. Cuba prohibits foreign ownership, so golf course developers have proposed they be given long leases for their projects.
Dozens of luxury Cuba hotels also have been built in joint ventures with international hotel chains while a huge marina is currently being built at Varadero with the hope that U.S. sailors will one day make the 90-mile trip across the Straits of Florida to Cuba. Americans are generally banned from taking Cuba holidays due to the 48-year-old U.S. 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. According to him 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," .
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