Cuba is today one of the Caribbean’s most in-demand destinations, known for its rich natural beauty, splendid beaches, agreeable climate, its fascinating and multifaceted culture and the friendliness of its people. Another of its major selling points is that it is safe, a place where the security-conscious traveller can enjoy its eternal summer stress free.
Combined with the foreign investment opportunities favoured by Cuban laws, these factors are attracting the interest of growing numbers of businesspeople from around the world, representing an important driving force for the national economy.
This dynamic sector offers many benefits to potential investors seeking to establish businesses in Cuba. Sector-specific policies aimed at identifying investment opportunities for foreign capital allow access to the Cuban market and its consumers. Investors are assured of secure and transparent legal status in a country that is politically, socially and legally stable, and geographically situated at the centre of an expanding market.
The personal safety of foreign nationals in Cuba is another draw, as are Cuba’s high-level indicators in education, social security and health across the population. Government policies prioritise technological innovation; institutions exist to serve investors. The country has a highly qualified workforce and a good basic infrastructure nationwide, including communication networks, over twenty airports, deep-draft ports allowing large ships to dock, electricity in over ninety-five percent of the national territory plus good road and rail links.
Today, Cuba has 69 135 guest rooms of which almost seventy percent are in four- and five-star hotels. Of these some three-quarters cater to beach tourism, a strong sector in a country encircled by over nine hundred and sixty kilometres of beaches, some of which are considered among the best in the Caribbean if not the world.
The ongoing tourism development plan foresees the completion of 4 825 new rooms in 2018. These include the recently opened Grand Packard Hotel in Havana and the Internacional in Varadero. Santiago de Cuba will also see new hotel openings including the idyllic Segundo Frente hotel featured in this issue of CubaPlus.
Cayo Santa María in the province of Villa Clara also got 917 new rooms, and by the end of the year the province will have a total of 1 074 new hotel rooms plus ten other new tourist facilities.
Thirty-one other projects are in construction across the country’s principal cities with 674 rooms. Thirty-one new facilities with 5 249 new rooms are forecast to have opened by the end of the year.
To date the Tourism Ministry has founded twenty-seven mixed enterprises working on the construction of new hotels and tourism-related property developments. Of these, thirteen have already implemented investment and are today operating fifteen four-and five-star hotels with 4 995 rooms.
The Cuban tourist sector offers several investment strands, with the largest number of contracts signed under hotel marketing and management. Ninety-five contracts have been approved to date accounting for a total of 45 333 managed by twenty-one foreign management entities across 124 hotel facilities. Forty-two of these are owned by the Gaviota group, twenty-seven by Gran Caribe, twenty-four by Cubanacan and two belong to Islazul.
Of these contracts eleven are loan agreements securing external finance to fund the renovation and modernisation of existing accommodation facilities.
Complementing hotel services, the Cuban tourist sector also has a management contract in place for marina services in Jardines del Rey (Marlin-Azulmar).
Tourism-related property development is another growing investment strand, with four mixed enterprises founded to date: El Salado in the ZED Mariel Special Development Zone, Punta Colorada in the province of Pinar del Río, Bellomonte S.A. in Havana and Carbonera S.A. in Matanzas.
These projects are opening up a new area in the market and preparations are advancing to set up the investment process as soon as possible.
Service marketing and management is another large area of investment, where seventeen contracts have been signed. These are mainly recreation and hospitality facilities run by service groups such as Palmares S.A., Marina Marlin and Grupo Empresarial Campismo Popular.
Six hundred and ten projects are planned for completion before 2030 in popular tourist areas that will become designated special economic zones. These are comprised of 332 accommodation projects, fifty-one recreation facilities, thirty tourist property developments, fifty nature-tourism facilities, fifty-five camping-related developments, twenty-two nautical recreation centres and seventy are entities providing support services to the sector.
All the evidence points to sustained and sustainable tourist sector development that looks set to make Cuba the Caribbean’s top tourist destination within little more than a decade.