Not only does it mark the first time in six decades that an American hotel chain operator operated a property in Cuba but Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. signed a historic agreement today March 20 for three new hotel deals in the island republic. The expanding hospitality company made the announcement by press release following receipt of authorization from the US Treasury Department for Starwood to operate hotels in Cuba. Long-time Havana icon, Hotel Inglaterra, will join The Luxury Collection and Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton. Both hotels will undergo renovations before raising their new brand flags later in 2016. The Company also announced that it has signed a Letter of Intent to convert the famed Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of The Luxury Collection. Fans of Starwood Hotels and members of its SPG rewards program should be delighted by the news of a trio of company-run properties in which to bed-down in when they finally get the chance to visit Cuba–which appears to be on everybody’s bucket list these days.
“Starwood’s history of creativity, innovation, sustainability and being a first mover is core to who we are and what has made us a formidable competitor in the industry with a long, global lead. I am proud of our team who worked tirelessly to make today possible. With Cuba’s rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire U.S. hospitality industry has watched Cuba with great interest, and we are thrilled to lead the charge and bring our sophisticated, high-end brands into the market at this inflection point,” said Starwood’s CEO Thomas B. Mangas.
Starwood’s Cuba properties will include the rebranding of the landmark Hotel Inglaterra as a member of The Luxury Collection. The iconic hotel, which opened in 1875, is situated close to the Gran Teatro de La Habana in the heart of downtown Havana. It is also home to the famed Gran Café el Louvre, which has hosted artists and travelers for over a century. After a full restoration and update the hotel will host 83 rooms. The second property was spawned from an agreement with Grupo de Turismo Gaviota S.A. , owner of Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district, to re-brand the hotel as Four Points by Sheraton Havana later this year that will cater to business travelers with approximately 186 rooms and state-of-the-art meeting facilities. And the final addition is a deal made with Habaguanex, owner of the famed Hotel Santa Isabel, to convert the nineteenth century colonial-style palace to a member of The Luxury Collection, but this one is still pending U.S. Treasury Department approval. The 27-room hotel overlooks Havana Harbor.
Looks like President Obama’s announcement on December 17, 2014,of pans to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, and the reestablishment in August 2015 of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba is paying off for US hotels and cruise lines that are anxious to begin itineraries in Cuba but have faced a few set backs. Airlines have fared fairly well. Last month, the U.S. and Cuba signed an agreement that provides U.S. carriers a chance operate up to 110 daily roundtrip flights, which would resume commercial airline service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years and promises to vastly increase the number of Americans traveling to Cuba.
According to USA Today, Starwood beat out several other U.S. hospitality companies that have been trying to invest in hotels in Cuba, including Marriott International. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson is accompanying President Barack Obama on his historic trip to the Communist island nation Sunday. If your history and geography is a little rusty, Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean Sea that is comprised of the big island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud island (Isle of Youth), and many smaller islands. Havana is the capital and largest city in Cuba and formerly called La Habana. The second largest city is Santiago de Cuba.