Sarah Rainsford of the BBC News writes about the first Cuban golf course joint venture since the Revolution.
Varadero golf club in Cuba shortly after it opened on 20 November 2000 Varadero is currently the only 18-hole course in Cuba, but it will now be joined by others after the government approved a new multi-million dollar golf project.
Five decades after Fidel Castro ordered Cuba’s golf courses to be closed down because he considered them “elitist”, the island’s communist government has approved the construction of a luxury golf resort, complete with an 18-hole course.
The $350m (£227m) Carbonera Club proposed by British firm Esencia is the first to get the green light, with a dozen similar initiatives still under consideration.
The move is a sign of the changing times here, as the government seeks new revenue sources to fund its socialist revolution.
“It will be a major complement to the tourist offering of [the resort town of] Varadero and the start of a whole new policy to increase the presence of golf in Cuba,” Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told the BBC during a visit to Varadero.
He confirmed that a formal deal had been reached for a joint venture between Esencia and the Cuban government to develop the Carbonera resort, a short distance along the coast.
“We’ve been working on this for seven years, step by step, so we’re very excited it’s finally going to happen,” Esencia’s CEO Andrew McDonald said on a tour of the 170-hectare (420-acre) site.
Mr. McDonald said he expected building work to begin next year on a design which would transform the area.
As well as the golf course, the plans include the construction of an exclusive, gated community of some 650 apartments and villas.
There will also be a hotel and a country club, complete with tennis courts, spa and a yacht club.
And Carbonera is not the only project in the pipeline. A second golf project, with Chinese investment, is expected to be approved by the end of this year.
Other resorts will then be rolled out gradually across the island with Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian funding.
The Carbonera Club
The Havana Journal wrote a detailed report about the Carbonera Club back in 2008 when the company first came out publicly about it’s efforts to negotiate the venture with the Cuban government.
The Carbonera Club website describes this project as a “Sensitive treatment of the natural and cultural environment together with a creative mix of contemporary design and the highest quality materials will help set a new precedent for tourism developments in the region, and will become one of the first developments of its kind brought to you by Palmares SA and Esencia.”
They were right. While other companies wait for approval from the Cuban government, the Carbonera Club expects to start construction next year. Of course with any news like this in Cuba, we will believe it when Esencia breaks ground.
The Club is proposed to cover 170 hectares and will offer properties for sale from private villas, one to four bedroom apartments and Conran designed residences. The Club will include a hotel and spa, a beach and watersports club, a tennis club, yacht club, marina and of course a championship 18 hole golf course.