Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently became the first U.S. hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution, following in the footsteps of other international hotel chains looking to cash in on the island’s rise in tourism. The deal marks the return of American companies to the Cuban travel market as President Obama continues to ease travel restrictions to the island.
Signed on Saturday—the night before President Obama visited the country—the hotel company announced it will manage and market two properties in Havana and also signed a letter of intent to operate a third. The two hotels include converting Hotel Inglaterra, located near Old Havana, into a Luxury Collection property, and transforming the 186-room Hotel Quinta Avenida, a business hotel located in the upscale Miramar district, into a Four Points by Sheraton. The company announced that the hotels will undergo renovations and should be running under the Starwood brand by year’s end.
The third hotel would involve converting the Hotel Santa Isabel, also in Havana, into a Luxury Collection property.
The hotels are currently owned by Cuban state enterprises and marks the most significant tie between an American company and the Cuban government since President Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries in late 2014. Starwood beat out several other U.S. hotel companies, including Marriott International, which has been trying to acquire Starwood over the last year.
“We are confident Starwood is the right partner to help write the next chapter of relations between Cuba and American business, and we moved quickly and enthusiastically to pursue opportunities following recent government actions,” says Kenneth S. Siegel, Starwood’s chief administrative officer and general counsel. “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.”