Starwood Signs Three Hotels In Cuba

Starwood made an announcement yesterday, one day before president Obama’s trip to Cuba, that it had signed three hotels in Havana.

Starwood Signs Three Hotels In Havana

Hotel Inglaterra and Hotel Santa Isabel will become part of its Luxury Collection and Hotel Quinta Avenida will become Four Points by Sheraton.

Here’s the press release from Starwood:

HAVANA–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (“Starwood”) (NYSE:HOT) today signed three new hotel deals in Cuba, marking the first U.S. based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years. This announcement follows receipt of authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department for Starwood to operate hotels in Cuba. 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. The Company 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 B. Mangas, Starwood’s Chief Executive Officer, 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 U.S. 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.”

Kenneth S. Siegel, Starwood’s 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.”

Hotel Signings

Jorge Giannattasio, Starwood’s 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.”

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 travelers 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.

Starwood has signed an agreement with Grupo de Turismo Gaviota S.A. , 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 travelers 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 U.S. 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.

Steps to Groundbreaking Announcement

On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, and in August 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba was reestablished. Then, last month, the U.S. and Cuba signed an agreement that provides U.S. airlines the opportunity to operate up to 110 daily roundtrip flights, which would resume commercial airline service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years and promises to vastly increase the number of Americans traveling to Cuba.

Keith Grossman, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Starwood, concluded: “Through our discussions and due diligence, it became clear that Starwood was the right choice for its unique approach to hospitality, sustainability and design that would enrich the local communities and enhance the guest experience. We plan to cultivate local talent, provide career enriching opportunities, and locally source art, décor, food, and materials to ensure we deliver authentic experiences.”

Starwood was advised by D17 Strategies, a consulting firm providing strategic counsel to clients seeking to carry out Cuban trade, investment, travel, and exchanges permitted under new U.S. regulations.

Conclusion

There is a huge need to renovate, build new properties and train employees in light of more US tourists hitting the island due to relaxation of the travel ban (read more here) and new scheduled flights that will start later this year.

I was in Havana last time in September 2004 and would probably need to visit again sometime later this year. I hope that the situation with internet access would have been resolved as well (extremely challenging).

Havana is a beautiful city but they need plenty of capital to renovate all the buildings some of which are in horrible shape.

It will be challenging environment for the Starwood to bring up these three properties up to western standards both hardware and employee wise.

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