Once again, things continue to move rapidly in the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba. It was just over a week ago that I discussed the further relaxing of restrictions on travel to Cuba and wondered if I should plan a trip soon before the country changes too much from US tourism. Verizon Wireless announced a pretty comprehensive roaming agreement for customers to stay connected while in Cuba.
And now we have two announcements about hotel chains heading to Cuba, and one is a much more developed announcement than I was expecting.
First, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced that they already have agreements with specific hotels to start management agreements in Cuba. Quoting from the press release:
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (“Starwood”) (NYSE: HOT) today signed three new hotel deals in Cuba, marking the first U.S. based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years. This announcement follows receipt of authorization from the U.S. 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.
Wow! Starwood Hotels plans to operate at least two hotels in 2016 and is working on a letter of intent on another one. I’m a big fan of Starwood’s Luxury Collection so I’m glad to see them adding at least one (and maybe two) new property to that collection. The website for the Hotel Inglaterra shows a historic building right near the Capitol building in downtown Havana. It’s good to hear the property is renovating before coming into the SPG family.
The pictures on the Hotel Quinta Avenita website look like concept photos so they may already be under renovation. Hotel Santa Isabel is a palace built in the 19th century on the water not far from Hotel Inglaterra.
Marriott had their own Cuba announcement, though a bit lower on the fanfare scale. They announced that the US has given them permission to begin operations in Cuba.
That means it’s likely that by 2017 travelers from the US are likely to have two different hotel chains to redeem points at for award bookings.
It may sound a bit odd but the “Americanization” of the hotel industry in Cuba may make me more likely to head down to Cuba even though I kinda want to see it before US tourism changes it too much. Anyways, good news for frequent travelers!
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