First American Hotel Opening In Cuba This Year

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

Early last year sanctions began being lifted between the US and Cuba, though the progress has been slow. As with most things involving the government, things don’t change overnight.

However, the past several weeks there has been significant progress, ahead of Obama’s upcoming visit to Cuba.

The first step is that airlines will begin flying between the US and Cuba. That process began in mid-February, and within a couple of weeks we learned about the flights which US carriers want to operate to Cuba. Based on the bids, they sure seem to be excited about Cuba, with airlines proposing up to 10x daily flights in certain markets.

All the routes US carriers propose operating between the US and Cuba

Then this past week it was announced that travel restrictions would further be eased between the US and Cuba, allowing Americans to make independent educational trips to Cuba without needing special permission from the government.

With US airlines planning service to Cuba, we still haven’t heard of any US hotel chains entering the Cuban market. That’s about to change.

Starwood will be the first American hotel chain in over half a century to operate a hotel in Cuba. Starwood has signed management contracts for two Cuban hotels, set to open later this year. This signifies the deepest ties between the Cuban government and an American company so far.

Per The New York Times:

Under two deals signed on the eve of a visit to Cuba by President Obama, Starwood will refurbish and manage the Hotel Inglaterra on the Parque Central near Old Havana and the Hotel Quinta Avenida, a 186-room business hotel in the upscale district of Miramar. The hotels should begin running under the Starwood brand this year, the company said.

Starwood, which has its corporate headquarters in Stamford, Conn., will be managing hotels owned by Cuban state enterprises — including a military conglomerate — creating the deepest ties so far between an American company and the Cuban government since President Obama announced a diplomatic thaw between the countries in December 2014.

Under the management agreement, the Hotel Inglaterra, which is owned by Gran Caribe, a Cuban state tourism company, will become one of Starwood’s Luxury Collection hotels. The Quinta Avenida, which is run by Gaviota, a Cuban military-run tourism group, will become a Four Points by Sheraton hotel.

Hotel Inglaterra will be renovated and will become a Starwood Luxury Collection property. [Update: The Hotel Inglaterra is no longer an SPG/Marriott hotel]. While the public spaces look charming, the rooms look like they could really use a renovation.

Hotel Inglaterra in Cuba

Hotel Inglaterra in Cuba

Meanwhile the Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton property. It actually doesn’t look substantially worse to me than the Luxury Collection property, so it’s interesting it will be branded as a Four Points by Sheraton property.

Hotel Quinta Avenida in Cuba

Hotel Quinta Avenida in Cuba

This is exciting news for points collectors, as it means there will finally be a way to earn and redeem Starpoints for stays in Cuba. I know some people are excited about Cuba because it’s still rather untouched and don’t like these types of changes. Personally I welcome any opportunity to redeem points. 😉

Bottom line

Just as airlines are bidding for new routes to Cuba, I suspect we’ll see a lot of competition among American hotel chains in Cuba as well. I’m excited to see Starwood lead the way.

Does Starwood having a hotel in Cuba making you more or less likely to visit?

  1. There are many state run hotels in the Havana vieja in amazing old spanish buildings. They are quite reasonably priced (just don’t expect the hotel services to match the grand building..) so it’s the last minute to visit them before they will be grabbed to various small luxury chains and prices will be something very different from today.

  2. I’m so glad I managed to see Cuba last september before the big run. Right now the island is flooded with tourists, with hotels being overbooked twice over, no available rental cars and people sleeping in the parks, because even the casas are all full.
    I can’t even imagine how it’s gonna be once direct flights between the States and Cuba start.

  3. @Marina, that was my impression when we were there three years ago. Havana’s tourist infrastructure seemed woefully unprepared for a sudden influx of tourists.

    I do wonder who will get the crown jewel of Havana’s hotels – the Nacional. The common areas have been kept up pretty well but our room was straight out of the 1950’s.

  4. @travel4b being from the former socialist country of Eastern Germany I suspect it also has a lot to do with socialism itself and the way things are handled logistically and service wise.
    In terms of organization and service Cuba just can’t compare to other caribbean countries, same with the value for money. I get a lot of negative feedback from Cuba travellers and I feel like that’s gonna help the surrounding countries though.

  5. The article states that Starwood got a license from State Department to run other properties and Marriott is also trying to get licenses. It’s also interesting that no licenses for tourist resorts are forthcoming because American leisure tourism isn’t allowed at this point.

    Personally, I’d be very curious to know details of any refurbishments. They mustn’t be very significant as hotels will switch to Starwood this year.

  6. “Right now the island is flooded with tourists, with hotels being overbooked twice over, no available rental cars and people sleeping in the parks, because even the casas are all full.”

    In other words, typical Communist country conditions. Is it like Venezuela where you have to bring your own toilet paper from home, since your hotel can’t find any to buy at any price?

    The lack of rental cars shouldn’t be a problem though, as you can always hire a driver with a donkey cart.

    Anyway, it sounds delightful. Go soon before these nostalgic conditions disappear. 🙂

  7. So Starwood will now start a business where they make money out of properties that were stolen by the government when the Castro brothers took power and bloggers promote this has something that is good.

  8. “…the progress has been slow. As with most things involving the government, things don’t change overnight.”

    This comment is a bit strange. Would…anyone expect things to change overnight, especially when it’s a pretty drastic transition? Like “BAM, sanctions are lifted, here are your American hotel chains and Olive Gardens! Enjoy!”

    I’ve actually been quite impressed at the speed with which things are developing! This is the type of transition that will be ongoing for decades and decades, not just because of the inefficiencies of governmental bureaucracies, but also because of the sheer magnitude of the transition!

  9. Can anyone guess when we might be allowed to book an award ticket with United miles on Copa Airlines flights from Panama to Cuba??

  10. I can’t help but find it ironic this comes after communist China is making a hostile takeover bid for Starwood, which was halfway digested by Marriott.

  11. Robert, hah 🙂
    Guess what we brought in our suitcase when we went to Miami for some shopping 🙂
    At least we have internet. It’s slower than near-solid honey, but at least I can browse reddit 🙂

    By the way,

  12. So the takeaway from this blog today is to bring your own fluffy toilet paper? Why not take a whole bagfull and trade it?


    What’s often forgotten, though, is that the embargo was actually triggered by something concrete: an enormous pile of American assets that Castro seized in the process of nationalizing the Cuban economy. Some of these assets were the vacation homes and bank accounts of wealthy individuals. But the lion’s share of the confiscated property—originally valued at $1.8 billion, which at 6 percent simple interest translates to nearly $7 billion today—was sugar factories, mines, oil refineries, and other business operations belonging to American corporations, among them the Coca-Cola Co., Exxon, and the First National Bank of Boston. A 2009 article in the Inter-American Law Review described Castro’s nationalization of US assets as the “largest uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in history.”

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