As international travel to Cuba grows, global hotel brands are looking to gain footholds in the more popular destinations, with European companies facing fewer restrictions on investment. This week, Paris-based AccorHotels said it would open the SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado in 2020 in the country’s capital, marking the brand’s debut in the Americas. AccorHotels already has a presence in Cuba with the Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havane and the Pullman Cayo Coco.
The SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado will be located at the intersection of Paseo de Marti and Malecón. In partnership with AccorHotels, the hotel will be part of Grupo de Turismo Gaviota, a government-owned Havana-based tourism and hospitality company with more than 85 hotels and more than 30,400 rooms throughout Cuba.
With design at the core of the SO/ brand, the Havana hotel will display the creative signature of Spanish fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, from the hotel’s emblem to the staff’s uniforms. “I am incredibly excited to take part in the design of the new SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado,” said de la Prada in a statement. “Havana is a magical and colorful city, and the design process came quite naturally. The world of Cuban dance was my central inspiration, and with that, the project came alive almost out of its own accord.”
The 10-story hotel will offer 250 guestrooms, including 36 suites; five food and beverage outlets, including a specialty restaurant and rooftop bar on the ninth floor; a chocolate café bar; a lobby lounge and bar; as well as an all-day signature dining restaurant.
Additional hotel features include three interior meeting rooms, a SO/ SPA with six treatment rooms, a SO/ FIT fitness center and a swimming pool with an adjacent pool bar.
Cuba’s Foreign Investment Appeal
Last month, Cuban officials reported approximately 3 million international travelers visited the Caribbean nation between January 1 and August 9, and authorities forecast that number could jump to 5 million by the end of the year, compared to 4.5 million in 2017.
The Cuban Ministry of Tourism has been promoting investment in Cuba, including with international companies like Meliá Hotels & Resorts, and aims to sign five-year management contracts extendable for another period to operate the hotels.
Havana's current hotel development pipeline includes the hotels Packard, which is scheduled to open this year: Prado y Malecón (opening in 2019), Corona, Metropolitano and Gran Hotel. Other projects include hotels on Malecón and D Streets, 3rd and 70th Streets across from the Panorama Hotel, G and 29th Streets and on 25th and Ki Streets near the Tryp Habana Libre Hotel.
These investments indicate investor confidence in Havana's tourism is rebounding. As of July, Havana had 15 hotels operated with foreign companies along with 95 management agreements accounting for 65 percent of Cuba's total number of guestrooms.