Have you been to Cuba? CEOs discuss business and travel opportunities on the island

This week’s question: Have you ever been to Cuba? Do you plan to go? Why or why not?


No, I have not been to Cuba. Of all of the places I would like to visit, Cuba is not a priority of where I desire to have personal travel. However, we are in the process of developing a specialty team that will be reviewing commercial real estate business opportunities throughout the entire Caribbean, including Cuba.

Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young


I have not been to Cuba and have no immediate plans to go there. I have no family ties or shared common culture and unfortunately, don’t speak the language. There are many other countries on my bucket list and it doesn’t include any Caribbean islands.

Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, South Florida, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida


I have not been to Cuba, but I would love to visit. I enjoy traveling and learning about cultures including my own. Since moving to Miami, I have witnessed the amazing impact of the Cuban culture on the fabric of our community. I would surely welcome an opportunity to visit the nation that has so influenced South Florida’s phenomenal success.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg


I have no plans to ever go to Cuba and that is out of respect and love for my mother, who is still alive and lost everything when she had to leave her homeland under a Castro-dominated regime.

Aurelio M. Fernandez III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System


I have never traveled to Cuba, and would be very interested in visiting the Island. I would want to visit schools, talk with school principals, and school leaders to learn about their system of education. The Council for Educational Change could share programs that have been effective in Florida and share our business models and best practices.

Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change


I have been to Cuba for leisure travel, and I will continue to support the opening of Cuba to trade and travel. Personally, I believe it is the right thing to do for the advancement of that country and its people. From a South Florida standpoint, our region has more to gain than any other in the U.S. from this opening when it comes to trade. I also believe that capitalism and market-driven policies will invariably affect the political future of Cuba more than any handling from politicians.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development


I have not visited Cuba. From conversations with friends and colleagues who are of Cuban descent, I recognize there are several historical challenges that many generations have experienced and I do not fully understand them all. I believe the day will come when my Cuban friends and colleagues will feel comfortable traveling there and I will feel comfortable at that time as well.

Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus


The last time I visited Cuba I was only 5 years old, and I would very much like to go again in order to see where my ancestors came from. At the same time, as Governor Rick Scott recently said, the United States could help put Cuba on the map quickly in regards to development and growth, creating an excellent investment opportunity as well.

Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group


I was born in Cuba, but have never been back. I don’t plan on going back because I don’t want to give my hard-earned money to a brutal dictatorship. The United States is an amazing country and there are plenty of great things to see and do here. Now, when Cuba has freedom and human rights are respected, I would love to visit the neighborhood I was born in.

Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade


I have only visited during my military service, quite some time ago. I’ve not yet determined whether investments in Cuba make sense for FECI, but we certainly have an expertise in areas that will likely need attention in Cuba over the longer-term, particularly infrastructure.

Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries


I have not been to Cuba, but we have many tour operator members that conduct tours there. In our LGBT segment, this has become a popular destination and we’ve seen an increasing number of LGBT group trips to the island. I do plan to visit in 2017.

John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association


I grew up in Miami as a young child, when many of the original Cuban refugees arrived here. I can remember my mother teaching many of the women how to drive for the first time with her car. In some ways, the Cuban history is my history. I would very much like to go to Cuba with some friends who have deep roots there.

Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos

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