Cuba has announced plans to relax real estate regulations in order to attract inward investment from overseas developers in an effort to boost its tourism industry.
Newly revealed plans involve allowing foreign parties to construct attractions – including marinas, golf courses and related projects – on the island, with the hope of attracting overseas visitors.
The move was widely interpreted to mean Caribbean island will now allow tourist developments that include long-term residences — not just the hotels catering to short-term visitors which presently line the island’s beaches.
Tourism minister Manuel Marrero confirmed the government had adopted “a policy of real estate development linked to tourism” as part of the strategy to boost such investment.
Cuba hosted some 2.4 million visitors in 2009, contributing roughly US$2 billion to the national economy.
Mr Marrero stated “several” foreign partners were presently being considered, with the Communist government potentially allowing overseas firms to take medium-to-long term leases on real estate in the country.
Cuban law prohibits foreign parties from owning land on the island.
“A policy was approved that permits real estate development associated with tourism, fundamentally golf courses, marinas and other complementary tourist investments,” Mr Marrero explained at Cuba’s annual International Tourism Fair.
Cuban officials hope the plans will lead to the “development of regions that today are virgin”, he added.
Cuban has a relatively strong tourism market, but many guests stay for a short time and spend little money.
The new initiative is designed to attract more affluent consumers.
However, American visitors are presently banned from spending money on the island under the terms of a trade embargo.
While US president Barack Obama has lifted travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives in Cuba, he remains sceptical of lifting the embargo before Cuba offers progress on human rights.