Cuba welcomes first US hotel brand
A large “Four Points by Sheraton” sign has gone up outside the Havana hotel that this week becomes the first in Cuba to operate under a United States (US) brand since the 1959 revolution.
The military-owned Gaviota 5th Avenue Hotel, close to the Caribbean seafront, is one of two hotels that Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide agreed to manage in a multimillion-dollar deal with Cuba in March.
For decades, such arrangements have been prohibited under the US economic embargo of the Communist-ruled island. But while the embargo remains in place, the Obama administration has loosened restrictions on trade and investment since it announced a detente with Cuba in December 2014.
“This is a historic moment,” said Nancy Sarabia, public relations manager for the hotel, adding that the official inauguration would take place this week. She called the hotel “a symbol of brotherhood and collaboration.”
Starwood is the first US company to commit major money to Cuba since Fidel Castro and his bearded rebels overthrew a pro-American government on January 1, 1959.
The company said it would not close the 5th Avenue Hotel while it refurbished it, a process that would take several months. Workers were re-painting the lobby last week.
According to Starwood’s website, it will start operating state-owned Gran Caribe Inglaterra Hotel under its Luxury Collection brand on August 31.
US President Barack Obama has called the embargo a failure and Washington is increasingly issuing special permissions to companies to do business with Cuba. (Reuters)