Property developers queuing up for share in Cuba

Posted: 11-Feb-16 09:41

With Cuba set to open its doors to the commercial world, concerns are raised as to whether the country can handle the influx of new development. Can the island support a large influx of tourists?

Property developers queuing up for share in Cuba

While a new-found tourism trade is certainly proving a boon for the economy in Cuba by bringing in money that the country desperately needs, as ever with these things, investment comes with a cost.

Indeed, with the rules preventing US citizens from travelling to Cuba being relaxed to the point that nearly all visitors are permitted to enter the country, there is now arguably more demand for restaurants, hotels and other services than there is ability for Cuban people to supply them.

Commenting on this subject Belmont Freeman, a Cuban-American architect based in New York who has travelled many times to Havana in the last 15 years, told the Guardian newspaper:

"The infrastructure just isn't there to cope with such numbers. [Havana] is woefully underserved for hotels and even if more were built, the services couldn't supply them. The mains water system hasn't been improved since the 1920s – it still loses around 50% through leakage."

Claiming a slice of the Cuban cake

These concerns have not stood in the way of luxury hotel chains who have their sights set on Cuba – and in particular, the bay of Havana – however. International property developers are already in the process of renovating buildings in the city, with those living there being driven out into the suburbs.

Of course, with the existing embargo on US companies owning property in Cuba, chains such as Marriot and Hilton can only drool from 100 miles across the Straits of Florida at present, but the common perception is that it's only a matter of time before business interests force congress' hand.

It is a prospect that is worrying to a number of Cubans who, while recognising the importance of overseas developers entering the country, fear that proposed plans may strip the country of its identity. Indeed, should the embargo be lifted, many US companies like Exxon, Texaco and Coca-Cola will undoubtedly attempt to lay claim to the land that was seized from them after the revolution.

With no suggestion of how such compensation issues would be fairly resolved at present, there is a real danger that Havana could be catapulted from having too little money to too much money in a short space of time and its harbour could effectively become something of a Las Vegas of the Caribbean. Certainly, Cuba will be hoping that good taste and a little common sense prevails.


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