Going to Cuba? Here’s One Way to Stay for Free

Cuba welcomes big American hotels, and Airbnb, with open arms.

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With political and economic relations between the US and Cuba improving, including an historic meeting today between President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba and plans to restore commercial flights between the two countries, it’s no surprise that hospitality services are following suit to accommodate the new influx of travelers. Over the weekend, US hotel company Starwood Resorts — which owns chains like Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis — signed a deal to refurbish and manage two hotels in Havana. That means that not only will you be able to legally (though not without some restrictions) go to Cuba this year, but if you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest member you can cash in points and stay for free.

Starwood Resorts will manage the Hotel Inglaterra, which is near Old Havana, and the Hotel Quinta Avenida in Miramar, an upscale residential neighborhood on the other side of Havana’s port. Both of these hotels are owned by Cuban state enterprises and their partnership showcases the new bond between the US and Cuba. Starwood says that they’ll open more hotels in the near future, including another one in Old Havana.

It’s only a matter of time before other hotel companies come knocking on Cuba’s door as well. Just yesterday Marriott International, which is currently bidding to purchase Starwood, announced that the US has cleared them to engage in business development in Cuba. And Airbnb has tapped into the country’s existing system of casa particulares — basically, bed and breakfasts run out of private homes and regulated by the government — with an authorization from the US government and cooperation from Cuba that has already allowed them to list more than 4,000 rental properties, making it the company’s fastest-growing market.

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