Marriott and Starwood "close" to entering Cuba

Posted: 16-Mar-16 09:31

With President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba just a week away, two of the world's biggest hotel companies have announced their applications to start operating in the country have already been submitted. Should the Marriott and Starwood chains get the green light to open properties on the island, it will certainly change the face of Cuba as we know it.

Marriott and Starwood "close" to entering Cuba

According to the Wall Street Journal, hotel giants Marriott and Starwood – who are expected to become one even bigger company by June – have applied to the appropriate government entities in Cuba to begin operating in the country. Should they prove successful, the pair could even close on deals before President Barack Obama visits the island on March 20.

"We are optimistic that we are going to get a green light from the U.S. government to have hotels under the Marriott flag in Cuba."

Thomas Marder, a Marriott spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, with his opposite number at Starwood, Carrie Bloom, also telling skift.com:

"Starwood has applied for authorization from the U.S. treasury department to operate hotels in Cuba."

Naturally, with the current focus on U.S.-Cuba relations more intense than ever, should the deals go ahead, it will be seen as a game-changing development as the country gears up for an influx of tourism quite unlike anything it has witnessed since travel embargoes were introduced in the 1950s.

The American precedent

With Airbnb beginning operations in the country back in April 2015, Cuba has already experienced a shake-up in its accommodation infrastructure, but this latest development would undoubtedly be the first major hotel deal to be approved and would pave the way for other chains to follow suit.

Of course, much will hinge on Obama's visit to the island later this month, with many administration watchers expecting the President to announce a set of new policies that will loosen the current restrictions on trade and travel between the two nations.

U.S. senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, has already urged the current administration to ease the restrictions on investment in Cuba so that American hotels can begin operating in the country – and should these calls be heeded during Obama's visit next week, it could prove a pivotal few months for the island nation as U.S. chains vie for their slice of the Cuban pie.


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