Marriott ordered to cease Cuba hotel operations by August

Jun 6, 2020

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Despite having an economy that’s heavily reliant on tourism, there’s currently only one US-managed hotel in all of Cuba. If you’re looking to redeem points for a free hotel night in Cuba, the only option is the Four Points by Sheraton Havana, though that option will be disappearing by August 31, 2020.

Marriott will be forced to terminate its management of the Four Points Havana and, along with other US hotel companies, will be barred from operating any properties in Cuba due to a new directive from the U.S. Department of Treasury. A Marriott spokeswoman confirmed that the company would not be able to open other hotels it had planned in Cuba.

Starwood Hotels, which was later acquired by Marriott, opened the Four Points Havana in 2016 with the approval of the U.S. government and had its operating license renewed in 2018.

The government’s decision, which is aimed at cutting off funding to entities linked to the Cuban military, follows years of escalating tensions between the two countries following President Obama’s attempt to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Further Reading: You can still go to Cuba as an American — but there’s a catch

So what does this mean for travelers? It’s likely that the hotel will eventually reopen under new management, but that could take a while and it’s unlikely to be a smooth transition at the end of August. If you have an upcoming reservation at the Four Points Havana, it would be wise to cancel and make alternate plans. Even if the hotel stays open in August, which is a big if, there’s no guarantee that the new owners would honor reservations made with Marriott, especially those made on points. The inherently political nature of this issue could further complicate things for travelers, and it’s best to steer clear entirely and change your plans while you still can.

The silver lining for affected travelers is that Marriott has greatly expanded its cancellation policy due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including making nearly all reservations refundable. Marriott’s updated cancellation policy includes the following note about hotel closures, which would apply here: “If a hotel closes, all affected reservations will be refunded, including ones within 24 hours prior to arrival.”

Bottom line

The opening of the Four Point Havana was a landmark deal, as it represented the first time a U.S. managed hotel had opened in Cuba since the end of the revolution in 1959. While it’s unclear what will happen to the property once Marriott winds down its operations in August, any travelers with upcoming reservations at the Four Points Havana should take advantage of Marriott’s flexible cancellation policy and rebook themselves at a different property.

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