US hotels and resorts company Starwood signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Cuban authorities, becoming the first US hotel company to invest in the country since 1959. Starwood announced a US$13.6 billion (AU$17.89 billion) takeover deal by Marriott and said it will be responsible for managing and marketing two properties in Havana.
The company also signed a letter of intent for operating the third property, it said on Saturday.
A Starwood spokesperson said that the company would be making a “multimillion-dollar investment” to bring the hotels up to our standards.”
The announcement came on the eve US President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba. He will be the first sitting president in more than half a century to visit the once cold war foe.
Such deals are generally dismissed under the US economic embargo, but Starwood received a go-ahead from the US Treasury Department last week.
There has been a notable boom in Cuba’s tourism industry since the December 2014 rapprochement with the United States. There has been a steep increase in the number of American visitors to Cuba since. The figures rose by 77 percent to 161,000 and the number of international tourists touched a record 3.5 million in 2015, the NBC News reported.
Cuba is expecting there will be a similar influx of American tourists in the country this year also as the scheduled airlines service resumes despite the tourism ban. Americans can travel to Cuba for 12 authorised purposes.
“The amount of travellers will skyrocket with direct flights,” Jorge Giannattasio, chief of Latin American operations.
Starwood is presently targeted for one of the biggest takeovers of an American company by a Chinese business, the BBC reported.
The US president has urged the Congress to lift the 54-year-old ban on trade with Cuba, but the call has been opposed by the majority of the Republicans.