In 2014, the Cuban government passed the Foreign Investment Law (FIL) offering foreign companies a number of opportunities to build and commercialize hotel developments in joint ventures with a Cuban partner, construct golf courses in partnership with a Cuban company, sign hotel administration contracts with Cuban hotel companies, and develop or build new marinas in conjunction with a Cuban state partner. A number of international hotel companies have signed management agreements with Cuban counterparts.
In Havana, Starwood became the first U.S. hospitality company to operate in Cuba after a 60-year hiatus. Starwood signed a management contract with Gaviota to run Four Points Havana by Sheraton (the former Hotel Quinta Avenida). It opened its doors to the public in June 2016. Starwood aims to open the Hotel Inglaterra under the Luxury Collection brand on November 1 having pushed back the opening from August 31. Starwood has also signed a letter of intent to run the historic Hotel Santa Isabel on Plaza de Armas under the same luxury brand.
The centrally located Hotel Manzana de Gómez, opposite the Inglaterra, was due to open this year. The Swiss hotel group Kempinski, touted in Cuban and foreign press as the managing foreign partner, confirmed to Skift it has not signed a management agreement with Gaviota for the luxury hotel.
French company Accor has partnered with Gaviota on Sofitel So La Habana currently under construction on the prominent corner plot of Prado and Malecón. Accor also confirmed its plans for a stylish 112-room MGallery in Havana and a 202-room Ibis.
Opposite the future So La Habana, the 300-room Hotel Packard is being resurrected by Gaviota using French architects. Spain’s Iberostar (a current significant player in the hospitality market in Cuba) would not be drawn on whether it has signed a management agreement on the prime oceanfront property. However, prominent Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, who did work with Iberostar on a proposal for the Packard, is no longer associated with it he confirmed and said the project has passed on from Iberostar.
Habaguanex, which runs the hotels in Old Havana has announced the following openings between 2017-2019: Cueto (57 rooms on Plaza Vieja), Marqués de Cárdenas de Monte Hermoso (21 rooms on Plaza San Francisco), Catedral (24 rooms, one block east of the cathedral) and Real Aduana (on Plaza San Francisco). Last month the Ministry of Tourism also announced the building of Cuba’s first airport hotel close to Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Wilton Properties, part of Canada’s VOX 360, plans to build modern, towering 363-room Hotel Arte in late 2017 next to the 1830 salsa club and restaurant in a joint venture with Gran Caribe.
Outside of the capital, Singapore’s Banyan Tree Resorts has partnered with Gaviota for the Dhawa Cayo Santa María (opening delayed from July 2016 to later this year), the Angsana Cayo Santa María, Banyan Tree Cayo Buba and Angsana Cayo Buba (Cayo Buba is off Varadero). Thailand’s Centara Hotels & Resorts will open Centara Grand Beach Resort Cayo Guillermo in late 2017, the first resort in Cuba to feature over water villas. Centara confirmed it has two other Cuba properties in the pipeline. Iberostar confirmed its 11th hotel opening with the Iberostar Playa Pilar on the formerly virgin beach of the same name on Cayo Guillermo. Its 12th opening will be Iberostar Bella Vista in Varadero at the end of this year.
Spanish hotel company Meliã, the largest hotel operator in Cuba, confirms it will open the all-inclusive Meliã Internacional on the site of the demolished mid-century Hotel Internacional in Varadero in 2018 in conjunction with Gran Caribe. A 400-room Meliã Trinidad is in the pipeline in partnership with state operator Cubanacán. Plenty of other development is scheduled for the Trinidad Ancón Caribbean beach area with further golf plans, hotels and an aquatic park slated. An 802-room Paradisus Cayo Santa María, Meliã’s luxury brand, is scheduled to open in 2018 on the keys north of Santa Clara in partnership with Gaviota.
French company Pansea Hotels and Resorts does not yet have an opening date for the luxury Pansea Trinidad, incorporated into the La Popa church above Trinidad town. Its plans for a hotel next to the Partagás cigar factory in Havana, and in the Viñales Valley remain in the pipeline, its spokesman said.