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Conference to focus on travel, business and investment opportunities in Cuba

BOONE—What opportunities will the thawing of US/Cuba relations bring for tourists, businesses and investors?

A one-day conference April 30 at Appalachian State University, “Cuba Answers,” will provide expert advice on new opportunities expected to occur in the Caribbean nation.

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Sponsored by Appalachian’s Walker College of Business and the Office of International Education and Development, the conference runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Plemmons Student Union – Price Lake Room 201A.

Admission is free for Appalachian faculty, staff and students. Cost for non-university participants is $45, which includes lunch. For more information and registration, visit

The luncheon speaker will be John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc. He is editor in chief of the organization’s publication Economic Eye on Cuba©.

Speakers and panelists for the event are Humberto Blanco, director of the Center for Research of the Cuban Economy in Havana; Saul Berenthal, chief operating officer of Cuban Heritage Experiences based in Durham; Ángel Ayala, a business and financial consultant from Havana, and Peter Thornton, the assistant director for international marketing for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

About the speakers

Ángel Ayala is an entrepreneur, public accountant, business/financial consultant and director of the UK-based company Tumi Music LTD, an import/export entity. He served as the director of the Spanish company Euro Business Market SL, an advertising and market promotion firm, from 2004-08.

Ayala was director of Auka Impex, a Canadian marketing firm, from 2001-2004. From 1997-2001, he served the Cuban Ministry of Tourism as the national administrative director and sales director for hotel supplies. Ayala previously worked for the International Trading House as part of Cubanacan’s international relations office, serving international companies accredited to do business in Cuba. He earned his MBA at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain.

Humberto Blanco is a professor and director of the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana. He holds degrees from the University of Havana and Carleton University in Canada. He serves on the editorial board of the Management Review, published by the Higher Education Ministry of Cuba, as well as the University of Havana’s magazine “Economy and Development.”

His research interests include economic reforms and business management as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. He has provided management consultation in the areas of manufacturing, retail and the software industry. He serves on the Council of Science and Technology as part of the Commission for Updating the Cuban Economic Model.

Saul Berenthal was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. in 1960. In 1983, he started his own software development business and successfully developed two other point-of-sale ventures in a variety of industries. After selling these, he has devoted his time to a variety of projects, including the creation of the Cuban Heritage Experiences-People to People Cuba Initiative, which works to facilitate connections between Cuba and the U.S. Through this organization he has led several groups to the island, allowing them to experience his “Jewish Cuba.”

Prior to joining the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Peter Thornton was vice president of international marketing for the American Peanut Council in Alexandria, Virginia. Before that, he worked in various positions in the Asia Division of the American Soybean Association in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a member of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA Agriculture Trade Advisory Committee and a member of the North Carolina District Export Council.