Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 21 2016

Major Hotel Brand Makes Historic Move In Cuba

Michelle Crowley

It’s been nearly six decades since a US-based hotel company has had a place in the Cuban lodging landscape. Now, as President Obama makes significant strides in easing travel restrictions and eliminating business hurdles, one of the leaders in the US hotel industry is saying hello to Havana. On Saturday, Starwood announced that it signed three new hotel deals in Cuba. The famous Hotel Inglaterra will be part of The Luxury Collection, and the five-star Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton. The company also signed a letter of intent to convert the Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of The Luxury Collection.

So when will SPG members be able to start earning points at these properties? Very soon. Starwood says renovations will begin soon at both properties, and each will become part of the Starwood family later this 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,” Kenneth S. Siegel, Starwood’s Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, said in a statement.

“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.”

SEE ALSO: Is The Marriott-Starwood Deal In Danger?

Travelers Go Crazy For Cuba

It doesn’t look like Starwood — or any other hotel, for that matter — will have trouble filling rooms on the island. 3.52 million visitors traveled to Cuba in 2015, a new record for the country’s tourism numbers, and US visitors accounted for a big part in the surge. Visits from the US increased by 77 percent. Those numbers are poised to surge. While Congress has yet to lift the trade embargo, the Obama Administration is moving in a direction that will make getting to Cuba from the US much easier. Airlines are ready for the trips, too. JetBlue, American, United and Delta have all voiced excitement about the opportunity to establish regular commercial service to Cuba.

Will Cuba Become A Conference Destination Soon?

As trusted hotel brands plant roots in Cuba, meeting planners won’t be far behind in adding the island to their consideration sets. But what does the future hold for hosting conferences in Cuba? Click here to find out from Convene.

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