U.S. hospitality company Starwood has started managing a Havana hotel that the Cuban military owns, poking a hole in the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
Starwood took over management of the 186-room Quinta Avenida hotel in Havana’s high-end Miramar area on June 28.
The hotel now bears Starwood’s Four Points by Sheraton brand, which targets business travelers, and room reservations at Quinta Avenida are now available on Starwood’s website.
The Obama administration allowed Starwood to manage Quinta Avenida with a special license issued by the Treasury Department.
The hotel has maintained an occupancy rate of about 80 percent even though it is undergoing renovation work likely to continue until the end of the year. Starwood officials said the renovation is a multimillion dollar project.
Visitors to Cuba complain about poorly run government-owned hotels. Unflattering online reviews of Quinta Avenida prior to Starwood’s managerial takeover cited dirty hallway carpets and cockroach infestations in some parts of the hotel.
Starwood’s property upgrade includes new beds and linens. Starwood also sent a team of managers from other countries to retrain its 180 Cuban employees at Quinta Avenida.
Robert Muse, a Washington-based expert on U.S. law in Cuba told the Associated Press that the Starwood arrangement indicates that the Obama administration is trying link the U.S. and Cuban economies as tightly as possible before the president’s term in office ends in January.
“It certainly goes further and faster than anyone contemplated,” Muse told AP. “The Cuban government proved that it can quickly and decisively deal with the U.S. hospitality sector. No reason they can’t do it again and again and again.” [Daily Business Review] — Mike Seemuth