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TTC Special: Cuba does good business with large hotel companies

Cuba received four million foreign travelers in 2016. The number in 2017 is expected to reach 4 million 200 thousand. Photo: TTC

By F. Martin

TTC Service.- A conference in Cuba attended by over 200 major hotel companies, led by a majority from the United States, was a good step for the island in an effort to maintain its “boom” tourism and bring to a climax with 12 million visitors yearly at some point in the near future.

The SAHIC business forum in Havana was dedicated to explore the possibilities of investing in the tourism sector in the Caribbean region, where Cuba is one of the destinations with the most growth potential over the coming years.

The forecast of 12 million tourists surpasses the 10 million that some specialists in the tourism industry of the island expect, if the relations with the United States are completely restored, after the embargo that Washington applied more than half a century ago.

Cuba already reached 2 million visitors at the beginning of May – 39 days before it did last year – which signifies a growth of 15 percent and a good overall trend for the year 2017, when it is expected to break the existing record of 4 million tourists, Tourism Deputy Minister Alexis Trujillo said at the event’s inauguration ceremony. Executives of the hotel groups such as Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham, IHG, Hyatt, JLL, Choice, Archipelago International and Ascend, took part in the meeting.

Cuba has a portfolio of business opportunities for foreign capital, including 110 projects of “hotel administration and the renovation of rooms while increasing their number and quality standards.”

Arturo Garcia, president of SAHIC (South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference), said that Cuba has the potential to become the number two destination in Latin America, trailing only Mexico, with the expected arrival of 12 million visitors.

Skeptical US experts believe that current President Donald Trump could paralyze the “meltdown” between the two nations and “cool” the current boom of that national sector, to the Sahic conference attended by important hoteliers from that country.

However, in June 2016 Starwood opened its administration of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel Havana, the first opened by a company of that nationality in more than 50 years of bilateral conflict, now protected by “the thaw “.

At that time it was announced that Starwood managed to take over the management of other hotels in Havana, a process currently under way.

The national leisure industry has managed to maintain a boom that attracted four million foreign travelers in 2016. The number in 2017 is expected to reach 4 million 200 thousand.

This May the Cuban tourism industry report that established new relations with foreign companies for the administration of hotels and the development of real-estate projects, associated to golf courses. The Spanish hotel chain Melia Hotels International Ltd. signed several contracts with the Cuban hotel groups Gran Caribe, Cubanacan and Islazul. According to the contracts, the Spanish firm will be in charge of building eight other hotels with 932 rooms in total, in the central cities of Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Camagüey, starting next year. Melia President Gabriel Escarrer said to the Cuban press that “these eight new hotels entail an important challenge that we are assuming with great enthusiasm and we made the promise of guaranteeing the Melia service throughout Cuba”.

The company Cubagolf S.A. signed letter of intention with German and Chinese firms for the construction of tourist facility complexes in different areas in the country.