LATEST CUBA NEWS: BUSINESS, TOURISM, INFRASTRUCTURE AND FINANCE:
Major U.S. hotel chains meet with Cuban authorities
Executives from large hotel chains based in the U.S. met with Cuban officials over the past few weeks in order to build contacts and gather information as they plan to invest in the island nation. The most recent meeting took place in the last week of September 2015 at the South American Conference on Investment in Hotels and Tourism in Lima, Peru. The conference provided the opportunity for executives from major U.S. hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, and Ramada to meet with Cuba’s Deputy Tourism Minister Luis Miguel Díaz. Current U.S. law prevents U.S. hotel firms from investing in Cuba, and Cuban law requires foreign companies to partner with a domestic firm before they are allowed to conduct business on the island. Despite the continuing U.S. restrictions, Cuban state-managed hotel companies such as Grupo Gaviota, Cubanacan, and Gran Caribe all presented potential projects to the U.S. business leaders for consideration. Ted Middleton, Hilton's senior Vice President of Development in Latin America stated his company is very eager to invest in Cuba adding that these meetings help construct a framework for future investment deals.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce establishes U.S. – Cuba business council to improve bilateral business ties
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the establishment of the U.S. – Cuba Business Council (USCBC) on 25 September 2015, which has the objective of removing trade barriers as well as improving the commercial relationship between the two countries. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue stated the Council has the historic opportunity to support the vital and growing Cuban private sector. The Council is being created to help both U.S. and Cuban businesses take full advantage of the lessening restrictions between the two countries and will also focus on lobbying for continued political change in both Cuba and the U.S. to allow for increased investment and commercial ties.
U.S. and Cuba to negotiate normalization of airline services
The first formal talks over the normalization of airline services between the U.S. and Cuba will be held on 28-29 September 2015, a long awaited step for the U.S. airline industry. Due to the economic embargo, U.S. citizens are currently forbidden to travel to Cuba for tourism, therefore if U.S. commercial airlines are granted permission to begin full operations, passengers will remain limited to the 12 categories of travel permitted under the restrictions. Despite the ongoing limitations, the U.S. Department of State stated travel to Cuba has increased by 35 percent since January 2015, and the opening of commercial flights to the island will only increase options available to U.S. travelers. American Airlines, JetBlue, and other U.S. airlines have already expressed their desire to establish regular services and have pressed U.S. officials to lift the restrictions. According to a U.S. official, the U.S. government hopes to reach an agreement that will allow regular commercial flights to begin by December 2015.
Cuban private sector to benefit from new U.S. trade and travel regulations
According to the U.S. Trade Secretary and U.S. Treasury Secretary on 18 September 2015, U.S. telecommunication, travel, and media companies as well as religious organizations and universities may now open branches in Cuba and hire Cubans. New regulations remove impediments blocking the establishment of regular airlines flights to Cuba as well as restrictions on ferry and cruise services. Several laws were also amended to allow businesses and organizations to open bank accounts in the country. Limits on remittances sent to Cuba have also been eliminated; the only remaining prohibition blocks transmittals to Communist Party members. U.S. Secretary of Trade Penny Pritzker stated these new policies will take effect on 21 September 2015 and are designed to support the emerging private sector in Cuba.