By Sucharita Mulpuru
SNOWBIRD DESTINATION? Critics of Leal's project abound. The most charitable dismiss it as a fa?de thrown up for the cruise-ship crowd (Havana is a significant port for European ships). Others say the project's greatest strength is its continued ability to bamboozle foreign investors, who have yet to see any profits and must cede 51% ownership to Cuba's government. "I don't know why the Europeans keep investing," marvels Teddy Taylor, the Consul General of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, the closest thing the U.S. has to an embassy on the island.
While foreign investors aren't seeing profits, they're at least gaining market share. Spanish chain Sol Melia now manages 23 properties that account for almost 25% of the island's 36,000 hotel rooms. Enrique Arias, a banker with BBVA, a European group whose holdings are primarily in Latin America, believes investments could pay off -- eventually. "With the high doctor-patient ratio, inexpensive and nice beaches, and warm climates, Cuban real estate has real potential for American retirees," he notes.
U.S. travel restrictions remain the most daunting challenge facing Cuba's tou