Lead with heart, create alliances with other entrepreneurs, and many other pieces of advice from Forbes‘ Susan Leger Ferraro with regards to real estate investments:
It’s not always as “simple” as building a company. In some cases, an investor needs to help form the industry they want to emerge in. This is what I am working on as a member of the Forbes Real Estate Council and an eco-friendly real estate developer.
My first visit to Cuba was in 2015, and it was love at first sight. Life in Cuba is all about passion and simplicity, and I decided I wanted that life. I wanted to give others the joy of visiting Cuba too, so I set out to support the development and expansion of infrastructure to meet the growing demands for tourism.
My husband, Jeffrey, and I are partnering with Cubans to rebuild modernized apartments in Old Havana to host tourists. We work directly with local artisans, schools and craftsmen to promote a new kind of experience for visitors that promotes eco-tourism and cultural connection. It’s a reciprocal relationship: We are learning the needs of the Cuban people as well as sharing our real estate expertise.
Here are some of the best strategies I have learned through this venture for developing real estate in an emerging economy:
1. Develop and hire local talent.
Wherever you seek to invest, work to develop and enhance the capacity of the local population. This is especially important in countries like Cuba, where international mentorship opportunities are limited. One way to connect with local talent is to host a meet-and-greet with local vendors, starting with tradespeople. Friends bring friends with them and offer collaboration and talent.
2. Build the infrastructure.
Many Cubans rent out rooms in their houses. Known as “casas particulares” or private homes, this is a cheap option for the nearly 2.7 million tourists who visited Cuba in just the first half of this year. Hotel stays are quite expensive, so the casas particulares offer a great alternative. Renting out rooms is one of the few avenues that has always been available to Cubans who wish to become entrepreneurs.
I worked with owners of casas particulares to help them enhance their properties and market their rooms more effectively. I also encouraged them to charge higher rates once these improvements were made. Short-term home rental platforms are important differentiators, and these steps can elevate a region’s short-term hospitality industry as a whole.
In the Caribbean, many landlords support renting units like these to international travelers. Owners can begin by listing one or two units on a site meant to reach these vacationers to see what traction they get. Location, location, location is especially important to tourists, so owners should be sure to highlight the unique points of their locales.
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