Karma in Cuba truce

Jonathan Porter

Cuba will “go nuts” … Mr Spence

President Kennedy called it “that imprisoned isle’’, Barack Obama says he has done more than any other president in decades to thaw relations with it, and now hotel giant Karma owner John Spence is leading the capitalist charge back there, with marinas, golf courses and a 300-unit dedicated luxury resort.

It’s Cuba of course, and tycoon Mr Spence, who owns 100 per cent equity in Karma Resorts, has form in picking winners early.

In previous downturns he has bought hot properties at bargain basement prices while his competitors were queuing up to fling themselves out of the nearest window.

In an exclusive interview with Lunch Magazine Mr Spence said he had heard from reliable sources that a thaw in US-Cuban relations is just around the corner.

And he said he is buying primo land for huge developments when detente comes.

“We are going in in quite a large way in Cuba. We are very bullish,’’ he told Lunch Magazine from London, where he is masterminding his latest European and Caribbean buying spree.

“At the moment Cuba is doing well from the Spanish market and the Canadian market but we believe that in the not too distant future the restrictions which stop Americans going there are going to come down.

Working towards detente … Mr Obama

“When that happens Cuba will go nuts. It will become a fantastic destination.

“We have joined a number of consortiums to build marinas, golf courses, hotels and a specific 300-unit Karma resort.’’

Mr Spence’s announcement comes as the first groups of American tourists began arriving on the island for cultural immersion trips known as “people-to-people exchanges.”

In January, President Obama announced the easing of trade restrictions with Cuba, a move that opened new airports to Cuba-bound flights and restored access for those visiting for educational and religious purposes.

It comes as US Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul pointed out the silliness of not talking to Cuba.

“It’s about time we talked to Cuba and stopped fighting  these wars that are about 30 or 40 years old,’’ he said recently in Iowa.

Dr Paul’s opponents snickered at him, but on Cuba he was pretty well in line with Foggy Bottom policy.

Policy update overdue

Mr Obama began allowing people no more than three generations removed to visit their relatives a few weeks ago.

In July Mr Obama said: “Since taking office, I’ve announced the most significant changes to my nation’s policy towards Cuba in decades.  I’ve made it possible for Cuban Americans to visit and support their families in Cuba.  We’re allowing Americans to send remittances.’’

Read the full interview with John Spence here

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