Cuba Real Estate: Si (for Golf!)

Think of Cuba, and what comes to mind? Castro? Of course. Revolution? Naturally. Political prisoners? Certainly. Exploding cigars? Sure. ( I still love those handy CIA smokes.) But what if I said: "Golf courses by foreign real-estate developers"? Would you think I had slipped on a banana and hit mi cabeza?

I didn't. At least, not recently.

Cuba has decided to open development of golf courses (and other real estate projects, such as marinas) to foreign companies -- or, as they used to be known, the enemy.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Cuba's tourism minister told a tourism fair on the island nation, "With the objective of developing regions that today are virgin, a policy was approved that permits real estate development associated with tourism, fundamentally golf courses, marinas and other complementary tourist investments."

Other than providing a pretty nifty place for Tiger Woods to shelter his money from any future divorce, why is Cuba doing this?

Well, pretty much for the same reason, of course: Money. Cuba wants money, and that comes from building giant hotels and, along with the hotels, luxury golf courses.

Although something like 2.5 million tourists went to Cuba last year, government figures quoted by the Australian paper show they collectively spent 12 percent less than in 2008.

Now, my follow Americans, before you start thinking about either investing in Cuban real estate or winging your way there to play a round or two, keep in mind that for the most part Americans can't go to Cuba because of this trade embargo the U.S. government imposed nearly half a century ago to force Castro out. So much for that policy!

The BBC quotes its Havana correspondent as saying that several European and Canadian investment firms have already made proposals.

But, says the BBC reporter, "in a country with no real estate market, where Cubans are not allowed to buy or sell their homes, the government has long been wary of allowing foreigners to own property." Which is why, he says, the fairly longterm leases will apparently be allowed -- provided they are linked to golf courses.

What's next, one wonders? Cuba inviting Disney to develop a Che Guevara theme park?

You know, actually...

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle. He has written about real estate-related issues for several years.

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