U.S. Airlines and Hotels Continue to Gain Foothold in Cuba

As relations between Cuba and America thaw, hospitality and transportation companies stand to benefit. Airlines were the beneficiaries today after the U.S. Transportation Department announced the tentative approval of flights to Havana on eight U.S. carriers.

American Airlines, the most active U.S. carrier in Latin America, was the biggest winner, receiving one-third of all flights originating out of South Florida and a total of 35 weekly flights. Rival JetBlue received the second most routes with 27.

The other carriers awarded flights included Delta Air, United Continental, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Air, Spirit Air, and Frontier Airlines.

Earlier this year, U.S. hospitality company Starwood Hotels & Resorts signed an historic deal that allows it to be the first American company to operate hotels in Cuba in nearly 60 years.

Starwood CEO Thomas Mangas said that he expects Cuba to be an even greater attraction than it was before the embargo and that the company’s initial deals were just the beginning of what he believes will be many more.

As other hospitality companies such as Marriott are quickly following Starwood’s lead, the sector is learning that another rival has been conducting business on the Caribbean Island for more than a year.

Home-sharing site Airbnb established a presence in Cuba in April of 2015. Since then, the company has quadrupled its listings from 1,000 to over 4,000.

A spokeswoman for Airbnb said that Cuba represented the fastest-growing market in the history of the company.

One of the reasons the internet company got off to such a fast start is it did not have to navigate much of Cuba’s onerous regulations. Despite the red tape, Cuban officials are encouraging hospitality companies to come, saying that the demand for additional capacity is massive.