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Posted June 03, 2008 by publisher in Cuban Sports

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Dominic Walsh | TimesOnlines.co.uk

It is the island of which Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “It not only looks wonderful, it is wonderful.” It is famed around the world for its unspoilt beaches, the rhythm of its music, its staunchly communist regime and its political stand-off with the United States.

Yet today, with the ink barely dry on Fidel Castro’s resignation as President after half a century in power, Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism will announce plans to build that most capitalist of institutions - a luxury golf resort complete with multimillion-dollar villas.

A British company in which Sir Terence Conran is involved has set up a strategic partnership with the ministry to develop the first of several golf resorts on the Caribbean island. The €350 million (£275 million) development is being heralded as the start of a push by the Cuban Government to boost its economy through tourism.

The Carbonera Country Club Resort, which is due to open in 2011, will be developed by Esencia Hotels & Resorts. It will be the first big investment in Cuba’s leisure industry by a British company.

Esencia is part of Havana Holdings, which was set up in 2001 with the aim of turning Floridita, the cocktail bar in Havana once frequented by Ernest Hemingway, into an international chain under a franchise deal with the Cuban Government.

Sir Terence, a lover of Cuban cigars, is an indirect investor in the project through D&D London, formerly Conran Restaurants, in which he has a 51 per cent stake. D&D, which runs the Floridita restaurant in London, is a shareholder in both Havana Holdings and Esencia.

The entrepreneur is also involved through Conran & Partners, his design consultancy, which has been hired to design the 900 luxury apartments and villas on the 150-hectare site. The units, which will be marketed to foreign investors by Savills Real Estate, will cost from $300,000 to $2 million.

The resort will have a 150-room boutique hotel, a branded international spa, sports and aquatic facilities and an 18-hole championship golf course designed by PGA Design Consulting, which is linked to the Professional Golfers’ Association. It will have “at least one” D&D restaurant and a Boisdale restaurant similar to the two in London.

Carbonera is one of five golf projects in Cuba given the go-ahead by the authorities, three of them by Spanish developers and one by a Canadian company. Esencia is looking at nearby sites for one more resort.

At present, Cuba boasts only 27 holes of golf - a nine-hole course in Havana for foreign businessmen and diplomats and the 18-hole Varadero Golf Club in the grounds of Xanadu, a seaside mansion built by Irénée du Pont, the American chemical industry millionaire.

Andrew Macdonald, chief executive of Esencia, dismissed fears that the resorts would harm Cuba’s character. “Carbonera’s unique selling point will be its ‘Cubanness’,” he said. “This will not be like any other golf resort in the world.”

Esencia, which hopes to take a 75-year lease on the site after the relaxation of the ban on foreign property ownership, is also developing a chain of boutique hotels on the island.

Michael Phair, the chairman, said: “Before the revolution there were 20 to 25 million visitors a year. Now there are about two million, of which about 250,000 are from the UK. That’s why Cuba wanted a British company as a partner.”

This article about Sir Terence Conran’s plans is also a good read about these new plans for golf courses in Cuba.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on June 03, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    This line is interesting.

    “Esencia, which hopes to take a 75-year lease on the site after the relaxation of the ban on foreign property ownership, is also developing a chain of boutique hotels on the island.”

    “AFTER the relaxation of the ban on foreign property ownership”.

    After? Almost sounds like they know something we don’t?



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on June 03, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    Isn’t Europe ahead of the States on that score?

    My stomach was in a bit of a knot while reading this article. While I understand the government’s need for tourist cash to boost the economy, I didn’t see this coming. I don’t think it bodes well in terms of keeping Cuba, Cuba. I grew up in Hawaii in the 50’s and 60’s, when there was still true Hawaiian charm and character. We all know what it’s turned into. (And, by this, I’m not in any way suggesting Cuba will become an American state.)


  3. Follow up post #3 added on June 03, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Really? You are against golf courses in Cuba? Yikes!



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on June 03, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    That’s not what I said. I guess you haven’t been to Hawaii lately.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on June 03, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Never been. If development is out of control that’s really a local zoning issue. Also, developers aren’t going to develop hotels if there is not a need.

    Then, there are boom bust cycles but the government really can’t regulate that… except for Castro. He’s been pretty good at maintaining the bust cycle in Cuba.



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  6. Follow up post #6 added on June 03, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    One only has to look at the Playa del Este area.
    Once upon a time it looked like a good place to develop tourist hotels - close to Havana etc.
    I understand that then there was a political decision that such large numbers of toursts aren’t desireable that close to Havana, and things quickly turned around.  Shells of started resorts and bulidings abound.  Of the three tourist hotels in Santa Maria only one looks good and its probably because its a co-venture with an Italian company (and I understand that is coming to an end this year). By all the rules of free enterprise, the area is perfect for resorts etc. - lets see what happens (was surprised that route #3 of teh new double decker tourist bus covers this area - despite the fact that the tourist hotels provide free twice daily bus service to the old city.
    Might be an exaggeration (but maybe not) to watch what happens here to see where Cuba is going.


  7. Follow up post #7 added on June 03, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Playas del Este is for Cubans. If Castro took that away from them like he did Varadero then they would be jumping off the Malecon.



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  8. Follow up post #8 added on June 04, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    very true.  Compared to the large number of Havanans that come out, especially on weekends, the tourists are hardly noticeable, and tend to stick to the bit of beach in front of tourist hotels.
    Still be interesting to see if this shifts with the number 3 double decker bus heading out there.
    There are still plenty of Cubans on teh public beaches within the town of Varadero itself, but same cant be said furtehr up teh peninsula where the majority of the tourist hotels are. Yeah, I’d hate to see that happen to the Playa del Este area.


  9. Follow up post #9 added on June 04, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Do they call it Playa del Este locally? The proper name is Playas del Este. I’ve seen that on the sign.



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  10. Follow up post #10 added on June 04, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    you’re right i’ve shortchanged the beaches…it is Playas, with the most popular one being at Santa Maria.


  11. Follow up post #11 added on June 04, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Any thoughts as to where this Carbonera golf course is going to be built?

    Just outside Varadero, Holguin, Jardines del Rey?

    Sounds like a big project and the only hint I can see is “Esencia is looking at nearby sites for one more resort.”



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  12. Follow up post #12 added on June 04, 2008 by Mako with 172 total posts

    Sounds like it is going to be between Varadero and Havana. Golf courses are fine and I hope they disburse 5 or 6 of them through out the island. Golf courses (done correctly) can enhance the natural beauty of the land .
    But one thing I beg for .....NO BUGER KINGS OR McDONALDS !!!


  13. Follow up post #13 added on June 04, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Jibacoa? I think I heard Leisure Canada had a deal in the works there.



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  14. Follow up post #14 added on June 05, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    would make a good site except for one thing.  Currently its quite isolated and thats why many tourists go to the two resorts there.  Briefly passed by there once and if i recall lots of open land and Cuban campgrounds so should be easy to develop.


  15. Follow up post #15 added on June 05, 2008 by edward with 65 total posts

    I don’t think you will have any any worries about Burger King and MacDonalds etc. This development as I understand it is being designed by Sir Terence Conran, you only have to visit ‘Floridita’ in London for example and La Casa Del Habano which is a high end cocktail bar and cigar emporium allowing one to sample their wares ‘in-house’ to know that this development will ooze class. The establishment also flies in cuban cigar makers who make to order giving the place authenticity.

    Next door at Floridita is a full on night club and restaurant, on Saturdays live cuban bands play and it’s got the unmistakable hall mark of quality stamped all over it.

    I believe the cuban government have formed an astute partnership with Conran. Conran is a lover of Cuba and is a classy operator, I think between them they will develop a very succesfull partnership which will reap benefits for everyone. Incidentally, the condo’s mentioned were going for sale on 75 year leases starting from £150,000. Does that mean they are for sale as holiday homes, buy to let or for potential foreign investors to actually live in them?

    FYI… http://www.floridita.co.uk/london/news.php

    PS: They’ve even got their own record label, I recommend the ‘Havan Masters’ series.


  16. Follow up post #16 added on June 05, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Interesting that they list Havana as one of their locations. Do they run this famous bar for the Cuban government?



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  17. Follow up post #17 added on June 06, 2008 by edward with 65 total posts

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the Cuban government have franchised 50% of the Floridita brand to the Conran Group. I think it’s an astute move by cuba to market the cuba brand in a stylish way worldwide without “selling out”. In my opinion I have every confidence that Conran will develop the Floridita and cuban brand very successfully to this brief.

    The government are well aware of the strengths of it’s ‘brand’and recognised that a strong marketing drive on a global basis will only reap benefits. In doing so I believe Cuba will attract a significant increase in tourism, the golfing project will also appeal to the business and top end visitor with money to spend. These guys obviously are not backward, they are using capitalist market forces to generate income without actually getting their ‘hands dirty’ themselves. In so doing they are not compromising their socialist ideals. I think they have chosen wisely with Conran.


  18. Follow up post #18 added on June 07, 2008 by Mako with 172 total posts

    Unfortunately Edward I hope you are right ,but I think you are wrong. With in 5-8 years I believe there will be more Burger Kings and McDonalds on the island than there will be vintage American cars. We are witnessing the end of an era


  19. Follow up post #19 added on June 07, 2008 by Mako with 172 total posts

    Also, Edward…not getting their “hands dirty” and not compromising their"socialist ideals”???  Do you really believe that?  Sounds like a bit of wishful thinking


  20. Follow up post #20 added on June 09, 2008 by edward with 65 total posts

    Hi Mako…

    Fair point, however if Burger King or MacDonald’s arrive in Cuba, that would mean an end to the embargo and an end to Cuba’s half century stand against everything that they’ve spent so much energy in repelling. I possess a lively imagination although I’m struggling to envisage the day when BK or the the Big Mac are available in Cuba.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, and from my experiences I like Americans as people generally speaking. However I think that globalisation and the relentless search for financial profit by countries such as the US and the UK results in misery, poverty, human suffering and promotes a ’ Me first’ attitude to life.

    Let me use another analogy, I’m a soccer fan, I’ve followed my team through thick and thin for 35 plus years. During this time they won the virtually nothing in terms of domestic honours save for trophies they picked up when promoted from a lower league back to the premier league. Four years ago my team was ‘bought’ by a rich russian who accumulated his vast wealth, Some 20 billion plus dollars worth by taking advantage of the opening of the russian economy. My team went on to win two league titles in succesive years, two league cups, one FA cup and one Community Shield.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Abramovich,

    You might think “why complain?”. Well, success has come at a price, I don’t think it’s fair or right that success can be bought in this way. I don’ think it’s fair or right that Mr Abramovich is allowed to accumulate so much wealth for himself at the expense of others. I also don’t think we should allow ourselves to be ‘bought’ in this way. As I see it Cuba has a choice, either stick by it’s principles or self herself out, I sincerely hope that she stays on course and doesn’t sell herself out like the rest of us.


  21. Follow up post #21 added on June 09, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Good points but let’s not compare this golf project to McDonald’s. Not the same thing at all.

    Also, just because things open up in Cuba means that there will be a McDonald’s everywhere. I would hope the Cubans will have zoning to regulate development.

    The funny thing is that I would bet most customers going to a McDonald’s in Cuba would be the Cubans looking to try American fast food. Americans going to Cuba would probably rather have an authentic Cuban meal at a paladar then a McDonald’s hamburger.

    So, let the Cuban people have the freedom to eat at McDonald’s. Who are we to tell them they can’t? They have been repressed long enough.



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  22. Follow up post #22 added on June 09, 2008 by edward with 65 total posts

    Hi Publisher

    Well said, I agree wholeheartedly.

    Ed


  23. Follow up post #23 added on June 09, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    publisher ...actually from Istanbu to Copenhagen ....I’ve seen as many Americans than locals in the McDonalds there.
    Am reminded of once in Copenhagen, I came across two American female backpackers (this was back in the 80s), and was walking around with them a bit.  As we passed a McD one of the girls said “We know where we’re eating tonight” .......


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