Cubans welcome high-end tourism as U.S. luxury hotel brand Starwood comes to Havana. Stefica Nicol Bikes reports.
Four Points by Sheraton has become the first U.S. hotel brand to start operating in Cuba since the 1959 revolution. Located close to the Caribbean seafront, this is one of the two hotels that Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide agreed to manage in a multimillion-dollar deal with Cuba in March. Their brands include W Hotels and St Regis, and they're known for their five-star service. Taxi driver Javier Alonso is hopeful that business in Havana will improve. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) TAXI DRIVER, JAVIER ALONSO, SAYING: "Let's see if they can raise the standards of the hotel which was flat before. Now that it's going to be administered by Americans I hope that it advances tourism in our country, particularly in the Miramar area." Thanks in part to the relaxing of U.S. travel restrictions, the number of visitors to Cuba rose 13.5 percent in the first four months of 2016 to 1.5 million tourists. Those numbers are expected to balloon if the U.S. lifts its travel ban altogether.