Photo by David Cogswell
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has approved an application from Marriott International to pursue a business transaction in Cuba, the hospitality firm announced. Marriott is in discussions to “develop a hospitality relationship with potential partners.”
Marriott officials made the announcement as President Obama on Saturday made the first trip to Cuba by a sitting U.S. president in more than 80 years. Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s president and chief executive officer, is traveling with U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker during the President's visit.
Earlier this month reports emerged that Marriott and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide were applying to the U.S. and Cuban governments for permission to invest in hotel development in the country.
Sorenson said Marriott plans to enter Cuba’s hospitality sector with the company’s hotel brands, while “providing hospitality training for Cuban nationals, helping to generate new economic opportunities for businesses supplying the hospitality industry, and as a corporate citizen, supporting opportunities for youth, women and other communities in Cuba.”
Sorenson added, "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.”
Earlier this month, tour operators cheered the Obama administration’s move allowing individual U.S. citizens to visit the country without joining a group. However, tour operators describe hotel availability in Cuba as “limited,” with very few luxury properties. Marriott’s entry into the Cuban hotel market would significantly expand accommodation options for U.S. travelers.
“We have long been convinced that with the right frameworks in place, new economic opportunities, including dramatically expanded travel, abound in Cuba,” said Sorenson. “These could deliver real benefits to the Cuban people and also have the effect of bringing both Americans and Cubans closer together."