by Sarah J.F. Braley | April 01, 2016
(Pictured) Marriott's Arne Sorenson (second from lower right) leads a roundtable with local entrepreneurs in Havana.
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Now that U.S. travelers are able to fly into Cuba, 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. In addition, a December 2015 agreement allows airlines to begin operating regular commercial flights between the two nations.

Following OFAC's approval, Starwood signed three new hotels in Cuba and will be the first U.S.-based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years. Marriott is in pursuit of properties and partners in the country.

"With its rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire U.S. hospitality industry has watched Cuba with great interest," said Thomas B. Mangas, Starwood CEO. "We are thrilled to lead the charge and bring our sophisticated, high-end brands into the market at this inflection point."

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 be renovated before being rebranded later this year. Starwood also intends to convert the 27-room Hotel Santa Isabel to a Luxury Collection property.

Several carriers have applied to serve the country, including American, JetBlue and United. JetBlue proposed 15 daily flights, with a possible start date of Sept. 8. Cuba also has granted approval for Carnival Corp.'s 704-passenger MV Adonia to call at Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.