British firms could be first foreigners to buy land in Cuba since revolution

British companies could be among the first foreigners to
buy land in Cuba since Fidel Castro’s
revolution in 1959, following a delegation to the communist state next weekend.

Up to 25 British companies are aiming to strike deals
that could allow them to develop hotels, golf courses and renewable energy
projects.

Law firm Eversheds, Esencia Hotels and Havana Energy are
among the firms that will meet Cuban government officials, who are trying to
attract foreign capital to boost the country’s shrinking economy.

“Cuba is open and prepared to receive foreign
capital and to develop mixed projects along with the Cuban government,”
said Igor Caballero, a Cuban embassy spokesman in London.

The present government, led by Raúl Castro, has promised
economic reforms and last month approved a law allowing foreign investors
99-year land leases. Cuba already has commercial relationships with Russia and
China, although their distance makes tourism and other trade deals expensive.

The British trip, organised by the independent Cuba Initiative, takes place
between 26 September and 3 October and may lead to the first purchase of Cuban
land by a foreign investor since 1959.

“We are optimistic of a positive outcome to the
visit in terms of UK investment. There are significant opportunities in a
limited number of sectors,” said David Jessop, director of Cuba
Initiative. The organisation is co-chaired by Cuba’s foreign trade minister
Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz.

Some projects, such as Esencia Hotels’ luxury resorts,
could be worth up to $400m (£256m). The government could be prepared to sell 10
golf course sites, and other projects include a $40m development using a
sugar-cane by-product to produce renewable energy, to be sold to the Cuban
grid.

More than 170,000 Britons visit Cuba every year, a number
beaten only by Canada, but Spanish companies such as the Sol Meliá hotel chain
have bigger investments there.

Investing in Cuba is a
challenge, because of the US embargo on the island, which limits
banks’ ability to lend funds directed to Cuban projects. Cuba, which still has
miles of virgin coast, does not have the resources to develop its own tourism
infrastructure. The country’s economy is worth $60bn and its total electricity
capacity is only slightly more than that produced by Britain’s Drax power
station alone.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Once Britain begins to develop hotels & tourism in Cuba, watch how quickly our tourism numbers fall. Why would anyone come here? Everything is overpriced, crime is on the rise and CUBA’s beaches are every bit as nice — or nicer than here. The cost of living is much lower — you can get 2 or 3 meals for the price of one meal in Cayman. Better get building that Cruise Ship Terminal now before CUBA beats you to it ! If Cayman really wants tourism dollars, they have to give serious consideration to how we are attracting tourists. Airfare from Canada to Cuba is MUCH cheaper than airfare from Canada to Cayman — yet the distance is approximately the same. Not enough difference to justify flights almost twice as much. If CUBA gets developed as a popular tourist destination, and the US embargo is lifted, watch the Cayman economy collapse. Smarten up, Government officials, and be PRO-active! Don’t wait til everyone is out of work, stores are all boarded up, crime is at an all-time high to scratch your heads and wonder what happened.

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