Marriott International may change its future plans for hotels in Cuba in the wake of President Trump’s decision to reverse Obama-era policy last week.
Marriott said in a statement that the “full effect on our current and planned operations in Cuba may depend on related forthcoming regulations.”
Marriott, which acquired Starwood last year to become the world’s largest hotel company, received U.S. treasury approval to do business in Cuba in 2016. Starwood signed a deal to operate three hotels—the Inglaterra, set to open in December 2019, the Hotel Santa Isabel and the former Hotel Quinta Avenida, which was reflagged as a Four Points by Sheraton. The Four Points Havana opened last year.
“We have invested significant resources establishing a presence in Cuba, and with one hotel open and another in the pipeline we have just begun our work creating opportunity and a more vibrant tourism sector on the island,” Marriott said in a statement.
“We will continue to urge the Trump administration and Congress to recognize and utilize travel as a strategic tool in efforts to improve relations with Cuba, allowing us to be part of a promising future, as opposed to reverting to the policies of the past.”
Marriott president and CEO Arne Sorenson said it would be "exceedingly disappointing" to see progress made in last two years halted and reversed.
Last Friday, the president announced he would roll back Obama administration policies that allowed private U.S. businesses to engage in financial transactions with the Cuban military, which controls a share of the country’s tourism and hotel sector. While officials said Mr. Trump’s intent is “not to disrupt existing transactions that have [already] occurred,” other U.S. hotel companies may have missed the window to enter the Cuban market.
Foreign hoteliers will continue to open properties to meet the increasing demand for luxury hotels. Swiss-based Kempinski Hotels recently opened Havana’s first five-star property, the Gran Hotel Manzana, and French group Accor and Iberostar of Spain have luxury hotels in the works.
The number of U.S. visitors to Cuba rose 74% last year. With Americans unable to visit as tourists, only permitted through 12 categories, like educational travel, some expect the number of tourists to drop off, affecting further hotel construction.