Major Caribbean hotel news: Both Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and Marriott International have announced plans to open hotels in Cuba. Both plans have been approved by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The two companies made their respective announcements as part of President Obama's visit to the country, the first by a sitting U.S. president in more than 80 years.
Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson, who is traveling with U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker during the President’s visit, has said that the company is in discussions to develop a hospitality relationship with potential partners, although there is no word yet on potential brands.
Starwood has announced that the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana will join The Luxury Collection, and that the Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton. Both hotels will undergo renovations before raising their new brand flags later in 2016. Starwood has also signed a Letter of Intent to convert the Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of The Luxury Collection.
Hotel Inglaterra, which is owned by Gran Caribe, is close to the Gran Teatro de La Habana in downtown Havana. The 83-room, historic property first opened in 1875 and is home to the Gran Café el Louvre, which has played host to famous artists and travelers.
The Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district will rebrand as the Four Points by Sheraton Havana later this year. The 186-room property will cater to business travelers, and will also offer meeting facilities.
The Hotel Santa Isabel is a nineteenth century colonial-style palace on the Plaza de Armas and overlooking Havana Harbor. It offers 27 rooms, including 11 suites. This property's conversion to a member of The Luxury Collection is still pending U.S. Treasury Department approval.
The Latest on Cuba Travel Restrictions
The Presidential visit and new hotel announcements come as the Obama administration moves to further ease restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Most recently, the government dropped the requirement that travelers on "people to people" educational trips to the country travel with groups of people. Under the latest rules, individuals can go on people to people trips as well.
In terms of air travel, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it would ease restrictions on airports that can accept flights to and from Cuba. Previously, only airports approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could accept flights to and from Cuba, and obtaining such approval required submitting a written request to CBP. Under a new regulation published this Monday in the Federal Register, flights to and from Cuba are now subject to the same legal requirements as other international flights. That new, interim rule is effective immediately, although CBP will receive public comments on it through April 20.
Several major U.S. airlines have already submitted route proposals for service to Cuba, including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates to this developing story.