by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 21, 2016

Now that U.S. travelers are able to fly into Cuba, marked by President Obama's historic trip to the country, the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury has approved applications from both Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide to conduct business in the country. Following the approval, Starwood announced it has signed three new hotel deals in Cuba, marking the first U.S.-based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years. Marriott said it is in pursuit of properties and partners in Cuba.

Havana's 83-room Hotel Inglaterra, in an 1875 colonial-era building, will join Starwood's Luxury Collection, and the 186-room Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton. Both hotels will undergo renovations before being rebranded later this year. Starwood also has signed a letter of intent to convert the 27-room Hotel Santa Isabel to a Luxury Collection property.

"I am proud of our team who worked tirelessly to make [the announcement] possible," said Thomas B. Mangas, Starwood CEO. "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."

Concerning Marriott's entry into the country, Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, said, "We are gratified to receive permission from the U.S. government to pursue business opportunities in Cuba. While there is still work to do before any agreement is reached, we are actively pursuing relationships in the hospitality sector. We have long been convinced that with the right frameworks in place, new economic opportunities, including dramatically expanded travel, abound in Cuba."