US chain strikes historic deal to open hotels in Cuba
HAVANA - American hotel chain, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has signed three new hotel deals in Cuba, becoming the first US-based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years.
The announcement follows 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.
“With Cuba’s rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire US 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 Thomas Mangas, Starwood’s Chief Executive Officer.
Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel Kenneth Siegel said the company is confident it is the right partner to help write the next chapter of relations between Cuba and American business.
“We moved quickly and enthusiastically to pursue opportunities following recent government actions. As we’ve seen throughout the world, our entry into new markets has a positive effect on local communities, preserving and protecting the culture and delicate ecosystems while improving employment opportunities, which were driving forces in our discussions,” he said.
Starwood has partnered with owner Gran Caribe to rebrand the renowned Hotel Inglaterra as a member of The Luxury Collection. A national landmark just steps from the Gran Teatro de La Habana in the heart of downtown Havana, the Inglaterra first opened its doors in 1875 and is home to the famed Gran Café el Louvre, which has hosted artists and travelers for over a century. Upon completion of the preservation and conversion projects later this year, the hotel will offer 83 rooms and reopen under The Luxury Collection banner.
Starwood has also signed an agreement with Grupo de Turismo Gaviota S.A., owner of Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district, to rebrand the hotel as Four Points by Sheraton Havana later this year. The hotel will cater to business travelers with approximately 186 rooms and state-of-the-art meeting facilities.
The company also has signed a letter of intent with Habaguanex, owner of the famed Hotel Santa Isabel, to convert the nineteenth century colonial-style palace to a member of The Luxury Collection, pending US Treasury Department approval. Situated on the Plaza de Armas and overlooking Havana Harbor, the Santa Isabel will offer Starwood guests a conveniently situated respite in the heart of Havana’s historic city center, with 27 rooms, including 11 suites.
On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, and in August 2015, the US Embassy in Cuba was reestablished. That was followed last month by the two countries signing an agreement that provides US airlines the opportunity to 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.