Airbnb / Via Twitter
Airbnb, Starwood Hotels and Marriott International announced Sunday they have all been granted permission from the U.S. Treasury to offer accommodations in Cuba. Starwood has already signed a deal to open three hotels on the island — two luxury properties and another aimed at business travelers.
The announcements coincide with U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to the Communist nation, which is aimed at restoring relations between the two former Cold War enemies. During the visit, Obama will meet with Cuban entrepreneurs.
Long-time Havana icon, Hotel Inglaterra, will join Starwood's luxury collection and Hotel Quinta Avenida will be converted into a Four Points by Sheraton, which is a Starwood's hotel for business visitors and small conventions. Both hotels will undergo renovations before raising their new brand flags later in 2016. Starwood also announced that it has signed a Letter of Intent to convert the famed Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of its luxury collection.
Beginning in April, Airbnb will be able to host travelers to Cuba from anywhere in the world. The home-sharing company has already been doing business for the past year on the island but was only allowed to accept licensed U.S. visitors.
Airbnb told BuzzFeed News that more than 4,000 Cuban owners have added their homes to its global community since last April, making Cuba the fastest-growing market in Airbnb history. To date, these Airbnb hosts have earned an average of $250 per booking. CEO and Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky is in Cuba with Obama celebrating the news.
“Airbnb was built on our belief that you can belong anywhere,” said Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk. “In less than a year, this has proven true in Cuba with more than 13,000 guests from each of the 50 U.S. states. Now, we will be able to offer the same belonging to travelers from any country, while doing our part to preserve what makes Cuba so special and unique.”
El Capitolio, the Gran Teatro and the Hotel Inglaterra in the Old Havana neighborhood.
Rebecca Blackwell / AP
Marriott President and Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson is also traveling with U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker during the President’s visit to Cuba. Sorenson announced Marriott's approval to do business on the island.
Mr. Sorenson said, “We are gratified to receive permission from the U.S. government to pursue business opportunities in Cuba. While there is still work to do before any agreement is reached, we are actively pursuing relationships in the hospitality sector. We have long been convinced that with the right frameworks in place, new economic opportunities, including dramatically expanded travel, abound in Cuba. These could deliver real benefits to the Cuban people and also have the effect of bringing both Americans and Cubans closer together.”