Starwood Hotels & Resorts has signed three new hotel deals in Cuba, marking the first United States-based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years.
The news comes as president Barak Obama visits the Caribbean island today.
He becomes the first sitting American president to land in Cuba since his predecessor Calvin Coolidge visited 88 years ago.
The Starwood deal follows receipt of authorisation from the United States treasury department for Starwood to operate hotels in Cuba.
The wider embargo on American businesses operating in Cuba remains in place.
As part of the deal long-time Havana icon, Hotel Inglaterra, will join The Luxury Collection and 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 also announced that it has signed a Letter of Intent to convert the famed Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of The Luxury Collection.
Thomas Mangas, Starwood chief executive, said: “Starwood’s history of creativity, innovation, sustainability and being a first mover is core to who we are and what has made us a formidable competitor in the industry with a long, global lead.
“I am proud of our team who worked tirelessly to make today possible.
“With Cuba’s rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire United States hospitality industry has watched Cuba with great interest, and we are thrilled to lead the charge and bring our sophisticated, high-end brands into the market at this inflection point.”
Starwood has partnered with owner Gran Caribe to rebrand the renowned Hotel Inglaterra as a member of The Luxury Collection.
A national landmark just steps from the Gran Teatro de La Habana in the heart of downtown Havana, the Inglaterra first opened its doors in 1875 and is home to the famed Gran Café el Louvre, which has hosted artists and travellers for over a century.
Upon completion of the preservation and conversion projects later this year, the hotel will offer 83 rooms and reopen under The Luxury Collection banner.
Kenneth Siegel, Starwood chief administrative officer and general counsel, added: “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.
“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.”
Starwood has signed an agreement with Grupo de Turismo Gaviota, owner of Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana’s Miramar district, to rebrand the hotel as Four Points by Sheraton Havana later this year.
The hotel will cater to business travellers with approximately 186 rooms and state-of-the-art meeting facilities.
The company also has signed a letter of intent with Habaguanex, owner of the famed Hotel Santa Isabel, to convert the nineteenth century colonial-style palace to a member of The Luxury Collection, pending treasury department approval.
Situated on the Plaza de Armas and overlooking Havana Harbor, the Santa Isabel will offer Starwood guests a conveniently situated respite in the heart of Havana’s historic city center, with 27 rooms, including 11 suites.
Jorge Giannattasio, Starwood senior vice president and chief of Latin America operations, said: “We are excited to add this sought-after destination to our growing Latin American and Caribbean portfolio, and offer our loyal guests more choice in this evolving market.
“Hotel conversions, like those we announced today, allow us to preserve history, architecture and culture while offering a unique branded experience.
“With our long-standing, locally based and highly experienced team in Latin America and the Caribbean, we look forward to welcoming guests to Cuba for many decades to come.”