HAVANA - Hotel chain giant Starwood today became the first US company to manage a hotel in Cuba since 1959, namely the 'Four Points by Sheraton Havana' which it will operate together with the Cuban state enterprise Gaviota.
"This project is a great achievement and I consider that it is a big step forward not only for Starwood but also for the Cuban hotel industry," said Jorge Giannattasio, Starwood's chief of Latin America operations.
The until yesterday 'Hotel Quinta Avenida' and now 'Four Points by Sheraton' is the result of the first bilateral agreement between the Cuban government and a US hotel company since over five decades.
It was reached after Starwood received an authorization from the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to operate in Cuba in the process of normalizing relations between Havana and Washington.
"This is a unique, special, once-in-a-lifetime moment. With this iconic opening we believe that we are building a bridge for a better way to experience the world for travelers from all latitudes," said the manager of Starwood, leader in the luxury market which mainly focuses on business tourism.
Giannattasio underlined the experience the US company acquired in more than 100 countries and the "positive impact" on societies and markets in which the company operates, and considered that Cuba "will not be an exception."
According to what he told Efe, the chain's future on the island is excellent. "This is a country full of opportunities, there is a great eagerness in the world for Cuba and it is an excellent opportunity and the right market for Starwood at the moment."
The restoration of the Cuba-United States diplomatic relations on Dec. 17, 2014 boosted visits to the island and sparked a "tourist boom" last year.
Local economists noted that Cuba received more than 3.5 million foreign tourists in 2015, including around 145,000 Americans, 79 percent more than the previous year.
In 2016, tourist arrivals in Cuba are expected to reach 3.7 million and the country has already welcomed 2 million so far this year.