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Starwood, Airbnb sail into Cuba

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Starwood Cuba
Tourists take a selfie while sitting in a vintage car outside the Quinta Avenida Habana Hotel in Havana yesterday. Starwood Hotels, based in the U.S., has signed an agreement to manage it under their brand. Photo: Reuters

Two names with a large presence in Yucatán are quickly making inroads into Cuba, which was visited by the U.S. president today.

U.S.-based Starwood Resorts signed a deal yesterday to “refurbish and manage” two hotels in Havana, and Airbnb announced today that it will open up its listings in the country to all visitors starting April 2.

Both companies had to receive special authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department.

The two hotels that will carry Starwood branding are owned by state-run companies, one of which is run directly by the military. Nevertheless, the step represents the first time a U.S. hotel chain has operated in Cuba in over 50 years.

This iteration in Cuba’s progress is striking in how it mirrors two entities that are strong on the peninsula, just as Yucatán and Cuba have been reaffirming cultural and economic ties.

Starwood in Yucatán

More than 10 years ago, then-Banamex director Roberto Hernandez — who led the movement to restore these aging, historic properties — sold a number of renovated Yucatecan haciendas to Starwood Hotels, which in turn added them to their Starwood Luxury Collection, which continues today.

With over 300 homes listed in Mérida alone, Airbnb is a prominent site among homeowners offerings vacation rentals online. Airbnb says it has 4,000 listings since it launched in Cuba a year ago

Although U.S. regulations do not yet allow visits to Cuba for tourism, there are now 12 valid reasons for travel, and U.S. airlines are planning for regular service to Cuba later this year.

Barack Obama’s visit today was the first presidential trip since Calvin Coolidge sailed to Havana in 1928.

With information from the New York Times

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