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Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 10:38 UK

Cuba allows foreign investment in tourism

Players practice at Cuba's only 18-hole golf course in Varadero. Photo: April 2010
Golf went out of favour after the Cuban revolution in 1959

Cuba has announced plans to allow foreigners to develop golf courses, marinas and related land projects to boost the nation's tourism industry.

Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said Havana was in advanced talks with "several potential foreign partners".

The Communist government is reportedly considering granting foreigners medium- to long-term leases of real estate, as Cuba prohibits foreign ownership.

Havana hopes the measures will attract more affluent tourists to the island.

Last year, some 2.4 million tourists visited Cuba, but many of them came for short stays and spent less money.

'Golf is key'

"A policy was approved that permits real estate development associated with tourism, fundamentally golf courses, marinas and other complementary tourist investments," Mr Marrero said at Cuba's annual International Tourism Fair on Tuesday.

He said the move aimed at "developing regions that today are virgin".

The cash-strapped Caribbean island now wants to attract a more affluent, bigger-spending class of tourist and golf is seen as the key, the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says.

Currently there is only one 18-hole golf course in the whole of Cuba. However, there are plans for 10 new courses, several of which are in an advanced stage of planning.

A number of European and Canadian investment firms have proposed building golf courses coupled with luxury sea front apartments and villas.

But 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, our correspondent says.

So under the new deal medium- to long-term leases may be allowed if linked to golf courses.



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