Monday, September 28, 2009

Chinese hotel project in Cuba eyes U.S. market

Chinese hotel project in Cuba eyes U.S. market
Mon Sep 28, 2009 1:54pm EDT
By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Hemingway Hotel may have an American ring to it,
but it is the name of a Chinese-Cuban venture scheduled for
groundbreaking this year with an apparent eye on the U.S. market,
tourism industry sources said.

State-run Suntine International-Economic Trading Company of China and
Cuba's Cubanacan hotel group are partners in the project, which will be
a 600-room luxury hotel, the sources, who asked not to be identified,
said over the weekend.

Future U.S., not Chinese, tourists appear to be the target market for
the hotel that will be built on the grounds of the sprawling Hemingway
Marina just west of Havana.

Renovations are already underway at the marina, named after famed U.S.
author Ernest Hemingway who resided in Cuba for many years, with the
expectation that U.S. boats will soon be coming to the island just 90
miles south of Key West, Florida.

The United States has long banned most of its citizens from visiting
Communist-led Cuba, under a 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the
island, but U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants improved ties
between the two countries.

Obama has lifted restrictions on Cuban American travel to Cuba and bills
are pending in the U.S. Congress that would eliminate the ban on travel
to Cuba, a popular U.S. tourist destination before the island's 1959

The passage of the travel bills is not assured because of opposition,
particularly among Cuban Americans, to renewing ties with the current
Cuban government.

Citic Construction, the main contractor for the Beijing Olympic Games,
and the Cuban Construction Ministry will build the proposed Hemingway hotel.

At a Havana meeting this month, the Chinese and Cuban partners set a
November start date for construction, diplomatic sources said, although
such plans are often delayed for logistical reasons.

Neither Suntine International nor Cubanacan were immediately available
for comment on the project.

With the prospect of better relations between Havana and Washington, and
President Raul Castro widely seen as more pragmatic than his ailing
brother Fidel Castro, other foreign investors are positioning themselves
for a new era as well.

Raul Castro, 78, took over the Cuban presidency from Fidel Castro, 83,
last year.

Tourism industry sources said they had noticed an increased interest in
hotel construction and that representatives from some major U.S. hotel
companies had quietly visited this year.

Qatar and Cuba signed an agreement in May to build a $75 million luxury
hotel on Cuba's Cayo Largo.

China's Suntine, with a 49 percent stake, is providing $150 million for
the Hemingway Hotel project. Cubanacan, with 51 percent ownership, is
providing the land and other resources, the sources said.

Suntine and Cubanacan also are joint venture partners in a 700-room
luxury hotel in Shanghai's Pudong business district, managed by Spain's
Sol Melia.

China is Cuba's second-largest economic partner after Venezuela. There
have been a number of Chinese-Cuban ventures in other sectors like oil,
pharmaceuticals, health care and telecommunications.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Pascal Fletcher)

Chinese hotel project in Cuba eyes U.S. market | International | Reuters
(28 September 2009)

No comments: