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The Door is Opening for US Hotels in Cuba

One of the Starwood hotels in the Starwood agreement, Hotel Quinta Avenida in the Miramar district of Havana, Cuba.

Signed hotel deals between the United States and Cuba have been back in the news recently and nobody wants to miss this window of opportunity. American hotel corporations are eager to move into Cuba but OFAC rules hinder access to the market already dominated by Spanish and Canadian hotel corporations.  Recent polls clearly indicate that most Americans are in favor of lifting the embargo.

President Obama’s visit to Cuba in March and his meetings with President Raul Castro helped put American business deals back on the table. The lucrative prospects for US hotels in Cuba is an opportunity that no one wants to miss. Cuba itself is seeking investments in its tourism industry to build its economy.

One of the hotels chains moving into Cuba’s hotel industry is the Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Starwood signed a business deal with the Cuban government to renovate and manage three luxury hotels in Havana. The hotels Inglaterra and Santa Isabel in Old Havana and the Hotel Quinta Avenida in Miramar will now be renovated and managed by Starwood.

But Starwood is not the only US hotel corporation trying to make their mark in Cuba. Another hotel chain, Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAR) which recently merged with Starwood is looking to extend their brand to Cuba. The CEO of Marriott, Arne Sorenson, accompanied the business group on Obama’s official visit to Cuba.  Marriott Hotels received US government approval but have yet to make an announcement of signed agreement.

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Large hotel corporations are not the only ones seeking a piece of the tourism market. Airbnb got into the action back in 2015. The Airbnb business deal has opened up an opportunity for Americans to visit the island and find accommodation using the Airbnb website. Recently Airbnb got the go-ahead to allow worldwide bookings for casa particulars (bed and breakfasts) in Cuba.

Many international hotel chains are already well established in Cuba. Latin American, Spanish and Canadian hotel corporations have been in Cuba since the early 1990s.  Hotel joint ventures with the Cuban government include Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts, Inc., Mercure Hotels, Barceló Group, Belive Hotels, Blau Hotels & Resorts, Sunwing and Meliá Hotels International. These companies have constructed and managed hotels and resorts throughout Cuba. One of the most popular tourist destinations is the Varadero peninsula with at least 52 hotels and resorts stretching the length of its white sand beaches.

Once the US embargo is lifted there is no doubt other US hotel chains will move into Cuba’s hotel and tourism industry. Granted, there will be a lot of catch up for the US hotel industry competing for the global travel market.  However, Cuba offers spectacular opportunities in hotel construction and renovation/modernization of existing hotels. What’s good news for consumers is that the competition to capture the current global Cuban travel market and the potential American tourists will be stiff.

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