Are Cuba Timeshare Resorts On The Way?
With the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States, tourism in Cuba is expected to take off in the not-too-distant future. U.S. cruise lines and hospitality providers have been waiting in the wings for years for the chance to explore business opportunities in Cuba, but what does this mean for the potential for Cuba timeshare resorts?
One thing to remember is that the rest of the world has been visiting Cuba for nearly as long as the U.S. embargo, with the country now entertaining three million visitors a year. So even though most Americans have visions of Cuba being stuck in 1950’s-era infrastructure, there is an established hospitality industry ready to embrace Cuba timeshare resorts on “The Pearl of the Antilles.”
2010 was Important for the Cuba Timeshare Industry
In 2010, the Cuban government amended its laws regarding foreign property ownership, allowing ownership in the form of 99-year leases. Many familiar with right-to-use products, especially in Mexico and the Caribbean, will understand that such a legal change set the stage to sell Cuba timeshares in programs similar to those currently being sold in Latin America.
In fact, timeshare products are now being sold in Cuba. Club Melia, the timeshare arm of Spanish hotel giant Melia Hotels International, opened an office in December, 2015 in the Meliã Marina Varadero resort in Punta Hicacos, on Cuba’s northern coast just east of Havana. Melia operates 28 hotels and resorts in eight destinations in Cuba and sales staff are selling the Club Melia points-based product, allowing owners the option to stay in any of the Melia Cuba destinations as well as Melia hotels worldwide.
Just about every branded developer has thought about building timeshares in Cuba. Westgate Resorts founder David Siegel told the Orlando Business Journal in May, 2015 that at some time in the future he would like to build a resort on Varadero Beach. He added that he traveled to Cuba over 50 times in the 1950s prior to the revolution that put Fidel Castro into power.
Travel Issues Still Exist
The potential for the timeshare industry in Cuba is huge, and exchange companies such as RCI and Interval International are chomping at the bit for the chance to sign up resorts to their exchange programs. However, for visitors traveling to Cuba in the near term, patience is still an important virtue.
Flights are being added from U.S. cities to Havana by carriers such as American and Jet Blue. However, the recommended time to arrive before flights is four hours early due to the logistics of flight operations to the island.
Once in Cuba, expect problems using U.S. credit cards and cellphones. And the internet is still mainly a mirage, except for a few government-controlled hot spots or hotels which can charge as much as $10 an hour for usage.
For now, operators such as AirBnb seem to have the upper hand when it comes to emerging opportunities, due to their ease of offering existing Cuban home owners the chance to open their homes to visitors. However, once the Cuban government trusts that normalized relations with the U.S. are not an illusion or some sort of CIA conspiracy, then they will begin allowing infrastructure improvements that should hasten the development of the Cuba timeshare industry.