Cuban Tourism: Emerging Investment Opportunities

The following is an extract from an article entitled "Cuba: Seeds of Change" by Cuban tourism expert Dr Hilary Becker, which is part of three part Special Feature "New Horizons", on highly attractive, emerging investment locations in the current issue of The Caribbean Property Investor magazine.

Cuba: Seeds of Change

Once dependent on Soviet subsidies to prop up a state-controlled planned economy, an increasingly open Cuba is emerging as one of the Caribbean’s top tourist destinations and most attractive investment opportunities.

Tourism in Cuba: An Investment Opportunity Ripe for the Picking
Tourism in Cuba: An Investment Opportunity Ripe for the Picking

Cuba, the island of romance and nostalgia located just 150 kilometers from the coast of Florida encompasses everything people love about the Caribbean: Sun drenched virgin beaches, exotic nightlife, the birthplace of Salsa dancing and a cultural melting pot where European, African and Chinese cultures merge. Cuba has a rich history too, from the mafia to the revolution and the US Embargo, peppered with charismatic and enigmatic personalities from Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to Ernest Hemingway.

Spanning 110,860 square kilometres, Cuba, “La Isla Grande”, is the largest island of the Caribbean. With a literacy rate of 99.8%, its population of nearly 11.5 million people is also well educated, the result of a free education system. Although its principle exports are sugar and tobacco, and the República also has an abundance of mining opportunities, unexploited fisheries and a wealth of oil which is starting to be extracted, it is tourism which has emerged as the largest sector and presents the most opportunities to the astute investor.

It was the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s that required the Cuban government to change and open up the economy, fueling the growth of tourism. As the health of Fidel Castro has declined, power has passed to his younger, more pragmatic brother Raúl, who has made various progressive reforms, including awarding more than 250,000 small business licenses to foster entrepreneurial ventures and permitting Cuban citizens to own and sell property. These moves have enhanced the economic climate and will spur future growth in the tourism sector.

The island nation already attracts more tourists than most other Caribbean destinations - close to 2.5 million per year. The potential elimination of the US embargo could see an estimated 3 million additional tourists visit the island. Recent softening of the US stance has seen a significant increase in US visitors to Cuba (mostly Cuban Americans), now representing the second largest visitor segment behind Canada.

These changes have not gone unnoticed by international markets, which eagerly anticipate the further softening of the US stance on Cuba and potential elimination of the US embargo which would see a flood of US tourism and investment. With the approval of the government, investment has poured in from overseas, funding the development of all inclusive, high end resorts. At the time of writing, the combined value of four major projects in development stands at US $1.5 billion (1.2 billion Euros).

This article continues on page 44 of the current issue of The Caribbean Property Investor magazine. Register for free to continue reading "Cuba: Seeds of Change" by Dr Hilary Becker.

For more info on the growth of tourism in Cuba, see "Cuba expects three million tourists in 2013".

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