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UK firm to build Tony Jacklin-designed $350M golf development in Cuba

May 31, 2013

A British company has won the right to build the first golf course and resort  development in Cuba with foreign participation since the revolution more than half a century ago.

The Carbonera project, named after a neighbouring village just over an hour's drive from Havana, will also offer foreigners the rare opportunity to buy property on the Caribbean island which is undergoing a period of economic liberalization.

UK development company Esencia Hotels and Resorts Ltd, which has been working towards the $350M project for seven years, has secured a Joint Venture with Cuba's Tourism Ministry to develop the 170-hectare site which lies close to the country's only existing golf course at Varadero, originally built in the 1930s.

Confirming the Joint Venture, the Tourism Minister, Manuel Marrero, said: "It will be a major complement to our tourism offering and the start of a whole new policy to increase the presence of golf in Cuba". 

There are plans to develop a network of around 12 courses on the island.

The chief executive of Esencia, Andrew Macdonald, said he expected building work to start next year.  The development will include around 800 apartments and villas, tennis centre, country club hotel, residential spa and aquatic activities  as well as the Tony Jacklin-designed golf course.

The conceptual design is complete and the main architects are Terence Conran, with specially designed Conran Residences, Rafael de la Hoz who has conceptualised the Spanish village and PGA design who did the masterplan. The site will be branded the Carbonera Golf and Country Club. It is planned that the country club will be managed by General Hotel Management and the spa will be run by Aman Resorts.

Mr Macdonald said: "Golfers are renowned for travelling to new places but the problem in Cuba is that, with only one course, it could scarcely be marketed as a golf destination.  After our project, there are others in the pipeline backed by companies from Spain, China and Vietnam."

Esencia is a British company that has been developing operations in Cuba for the last seven years. The company has developed both a boutique travel agency and an import/export agency in Cuba while progressing the Carbonera project.

This will be the first opportunity for foreigners to buy property in Cuba apart form a short-lived experiment in the 1990s.  There is expected to be keen demand from Canada and European countries which are already Cuba's major partners in trade and tourism.

The chairman of Esencia, former UK Trade Minister Brian Wilson, said: "Change is occurring in Cuba and, very properly, it is at the pace determined by the Cubans. So long as their priorities and safeguards are respected, a great deal is now possible here.

"This development will bring economic benefit to Cuba and create a precedent for similar projects.  I am delighted it is a British company which is leading the way and hope it will encourage others to look at the potential for investment in Cuba".

Hans Jenni, president of the prestigious GHM hotel operators, said: "This is in line with our philosophy of pioneering destination development which both GHM and Aman have been doing in countries like Vietnam and Bhutan.

"We see the potential of Cuba as a leisure destination for the global traveller and are confident that our involvement will raise the profile for the country's already attractive proposition."








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