By Alexander Britell
It’s time for US hotels to start operating in Cuba.
That’s the view of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is calling on the US Departments of Treasury and Commerce to allow American hotels to operate in Cuba.
In a letter to Treasure and Commerce Secretaries Jack Lew and Penny Pritzker, respectively, Klobuchar urged an amendment to regulations to authorize US investment in the Cuban hotel industry.
“As diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to progress, there are increasing opportunities to do business and improve economic opportunities and the quality of life in Cuba,” Klobuchar wrote. “I strongly believe that continuing to isolate Cuba will be contrary to our interests and disadvantage American businesses and farmers. Removing regulatory barriers and ensuring that the U.S. hospitality industry has a fair shot in Cuba is another way that we can continue to make progress towards officially ending the embargo.”
The hotel component is part of a wider push Klobuchar is leading on the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, currently cosponsored by 23 other Senators.
The proposed bill would lift the current embargo and allow more U.S. goods to be exported to Cuba; its provisions include lifting legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba.
Klobuchar, who traveled to Cuba for the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana over the summer, pointed to the fact that global home-rental Airbnb has accumulated more than 2,000 listings in Cuba, while US hotels cannot operate there.
She also considered to the costs of inaction, noting that “other countries will continue to expand their hotel and travel opportunities in Cuba while US companies are excluded.”
Indeed, the US-Cuba rapprochement has led to a rebirth in interest in Cuba beyond the United States, with major firms outside the country looking to increase or launch a footprint in Cuba, from already entrenched companies like Melia continuing to develop properties in Cuba to new-to-market hotel companies like Singapore-based Banyan Tree, which announced plans to open the Dhawa Cayo Las Brujas hotel in Cuba.
“I strongly believe that continuing to isolate Cuba will be contrary to our interests and disadvantage American businesses and farmers. That is why I have been an ardent supporter of President Obama’s plan to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and why I introduced the bipartisan Freedom to Export to Cuba Act to lift the trade embargo and knock down legal barriers that prevent Americans from doing business in Cuba,” she wrote. “Removing regulatory barriers and ensuring that the U.S. hospitality industry has a fair shot in Cuba is another way that we can continue to make progress towards officially ending the embargo.”