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Starwood Inks Deal to Open Properties in Cuba

March 21, 2016
4 min read
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Starwood Inks Deal to Open Properties in Cuba
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Although the future of Starwood and its beloved SPG program is still unknown as the bidding war between Marriott and Anbang continues, the company is continuing to expand its portfolio. Starwood recently added two new brands, Design Hotels and Tribute Portfolio — now the company is expanding its reach in the Caribbean to Cuba.

On Saturday, Starwood became the first US hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution. The deal comes after Starwood received authorization from the US Treasury Department to operate existing hotels in the Communist nation. Marriott has also received Treasury approval but has yet to announce any property deals.

Starwood's announcement noted that it will manage and market two properties in Havana, as well as a letter of intent to operate a third. All Cuban hotels are state-owned, but Starwood will have permission to renovate and convert the existing hotels to meet the brand's standards — all of them will undergo Starwood's renovations since they seem a bit outdated at this time.

Here are the three properties:

Hotel Quinta Avenida

Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana.
Hotel Quinta Avenida in Havana. Image courtesy of Hotel Quinta Avenida.

This six-story property has 186 rooms and is located in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana (the city's business district). Following the takeover of Starwood and its renovations, the hotel will become a Four Points Sheraton, offering views of the city and nearby Monte Barreto Ecological Park. The property is surrounded by embassies, restaurants, business areas and entertainment hotspots.

Hotel Inglaterra

The lobby of Hotel Inglaterra. Image courtesy of Hotel Inglaterra.

This Havana hotel opened in 1875 and has 83 rooms. When Starwood takes over, it will become part of its Luxury Collection brand. Hotel Inglaterra is located walking distance from the Gran Teatro del la Habana and Capitolio, faces Central Park and is next to the pedestrian boulevard, San Rafael. The property's sidewalk cafe, Gran Cafe el Louvre, is well known for its live music and the perfect spot for people watching.

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Hotel Santa Isabel

Hotel Santa Isabel. Image courtesy of Hotel Santa Isabel.

Starwood announced that it has signed a letter of intent to convert this property into a member of its Luxury Collection as well. The hotel's location on the Plaza de Armas puts visitors within walking distance of the historic center. The arched, colonial architecture on the building's exterior opens up to the interior, filled with antique furniture and crystal chandeliers.

It will be interesting to see how Starwood's renovations will change the three properties. In a release, Starwood said the two that have already been confirmed (Hotel Quinta Avenida and Hotel Inglaterra) will be rebranded later this year.

Getting to this once-forbidden nation isn't as hard as it used to be, as US airlines are continuing to compete for airspace flying into Cuba. With US-based hotels entering the equation, it will soon be even easier for frequent travelers to visit the country.

Accommodation options are opening up as well, as travelers can now find places to stay not only at hotels, but also with Airbnb. Yesterday, Airbnb announced that it had received authorization from the US Treasury Department to expand its rental home listings in Cuba to non-US travelers, which will begin April 2. Previously, the company had only been allowed to do business in Cuba with travelers from the US.

If you haven't already done so, now's a better time than ever to sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and its business version. Both cards are featuring their highest sign-up bonuses ever — 35,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the personal card and 35,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the business card. Keep in mind that these limited-time sign-up bonuses will be ending March 30.