Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide signed on three new hotels in Cuba Saturday, the first U.S. hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution. The announcement came just a day before U.S. President Barack Obama was due to visit Havana.
The deal -- previously prohibited under the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba -- received the go-ahead from the U.S. Treasury Department last week as the Obama administration pulled down restrictions on travel, Cuba’s access to the international banking system and other trade barriers.
In a statement, Starwood said it will manage and market two properties in Havana and has signed a letter of intent to operate a third. Starwood said it would invest millions to renovate and rebrand the Quinta Avenida, Santa Isabel and Inglaterra hotels, train and hire new staff, and reopen the hotels by the end of the 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 Saturday.
On Friday, China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. signed a deal to buy Starwood Hotels -- the world’s seventh-largest hotel company in $13 billion dollar deal, brushing of a rival offer from U.S.-based Marriott International.
Former Cold War foes, U.S. and Cuba reopened diplomatic relations in December 2014, which led to a boom in Cuba’s nationalized tourism industry. International visitors rose 17 percent to a record 3.5 million in 2015, including a 77 percent increase in American visitors to 161,000, according to Reuters. U.S. airlines are now free to operate up to 110 daily roundtrip flights to Cuba.