As Cuba opens, developers tee up to build golf courses

Fri Jul 3, 2015 7:20am EDT
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By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - A British real estate developer plans to break ground early next year on Communist-run Cuba's first luxury golf resort, a $500 million project that would be the largest private foreign investment on the island since the fall of the Soviet Union.

With relations improving between the United States and Cuba, tourism and real estate are seen by many businesses as the most interesting investments, and the race is on to get in.

Ian Livingstone, co-executive chairman of London & Regional, said in a telephone interview from London that construction would begin in the first quarter of 2016 in conjunction with an international building firm yet to be named.

Cuba currently has just one 18-hole golf course, but the Caribbean island's Communist government says it wants to eventually have at least 12 golf resorts.

"People are desperate to buy in Cuba but they need some reassurance at this stage and that means a reputable company such as ours," Livingston said. "It is important we get the right quality because Cuba wants to start attracting more high-end tourists."

Aside from an 18-hole course, plans include a marina, 100-room luxury hotel and more than 1,000 privately owned beach front condominiums and villas.

The state enterprise Palmares SA has a 51 percent stake in the project, as it does with other planned golf resorts. In exchange for its majority stake, Palmares grants land with no property claims attached and allows a renewable 99-year lease on condos and villas.

Besides the London & Regional project, Palmares signed final papers last month with the Beijing Enterprise Group for a similar project, Jose Alonso, the tourism ministry’s business director, told official media last week.   Continued...

A man walks in a golf course in Varadero, Cuba, in this May 4, 2008 file photograph. REUTERS/Claudia Daut/Files