Doing Business in Cuba Event
‘Doing Business in Cuba’ was a panel discussion organized by the Geneva Walker School of Business and Technology on November third 2016 at the Geneva campus. It helped to answer how political and trade developments (such as those with France) and the reestablishment of full diplomatic relations with the United States may have changed the ability to invest in Cuba.
The panelists represented foreign business and Cuban local business experience in Cuba moderated by Michael Parmly, Head of the US Mission in Havana for three years. He asserted that Cuba’s two greatest assets are its geographic position as a possible trade staging area, and the people themselves because of their exceptional work ethic. French businessman Eric Peyre, Head of Sales and Marketing for Accor hotels in Cuba, highlighted challenges in working under government scrutiny and resource scarcity (consumables cannot be imported) and spoke about the growth occurring in the Cuban tourism industry. Miguel (Mikey) Morales is a Cuban entrepreneur who left his job as a waiter to develop a family restaurant and then developed a high-level training program in the hospitality area for Cubans. He spoke about how he was able to negotiate governmental requirements to satisfy them while developing his business at the same time.
Panelists agree that doing business in Cuba requires “patience… patience… patience” (Parmly) but that there are opportunities for investment and paths to do so. All panelists also agreed that the challenge requiring the most patience is working under government scrutiny. Eric Peyre explained that there are several routes available to set up a business and you have to choose what best fits your situation. These routes are: through the Tourism Ministry; the Armed Forces Ministry (who can choose what companies they want and will finance all – the company brings the brand); other ministries who can give a renovation contract but no financing (the business finances all); a joint venture where the company brings finance and technology and is allowed to import what is needed; a tax free port where the company is 100% foreign and has tax incentives; or via a recently added, Concession model (a French company has a 30 year concession agreement to run the airport.)
All of the panelists agreed with Michael Parmly’s statement that whatever you invest in the Cuban people they “will repay you 10 fold.”