With Havana property buy, UK's St Giles Hotels plans Cuba growth

Havana's Malecon (Havana's Malecon)

Cuba keeps opening doors to more international businesses. With Spain's Melia and France's AccorHotels already established in the country, and with Marriott behind the first U.S.-branded hotel to open there in almost 60 years, another global brand is looking to grow in Cuba. 

The UK's St Giles Hotels is planning to make the first UK group property purchase in Havana since U.S.-Cuban relations rebounded last year. Partnering with Cuba’s Gran Caribe, St Giles will redevelop the Hotel Deauville on the city’s Malecon, or waterfront. Under the new name The Deauville – A St Giles Signature Hotel, the property is scheduled to reopen in 2019. Updates will include a rooftop bar and gym overlooking the capital.

St Giles Hotels, a CHM Hotels subsidiary, manages nine hotels across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. Two hotels in its portfolio are the 724-room St Giles London in Bloomsbury and the St Giles Heathrow close to Feltham rail station.

“We are incredibly excited and honored to have been distinguished with this opportunity,” Abigail Tan-Giroud, head of Europe, UK and the Americas said in a statement. “Our success in hotel development, and management, vast experience in construction, and our brand’s value of preserving culture and enhancing communities, puts St Giles Hotels in a prime situation to partner with the Cuban government on re-developing this gem in Havana. And of course, being the first UK hotel group to be granted entry is a bonus!”

According to Cuba’s VM of tourism Luis Miguel Diaz Sanchez, tourism in Cuba grew 17 percent in 2015 and occupancy was at 62 percent although those rates vary by season.

That number is growing steadily, especially due to an influx of U.S. visitors. “It’s no secret to anyone that there will be more inflow from the U.S., and we expect that to be gradual and have been getting ready by improving infrastructure in order to meet the needs of this new demand, but we don’t want to destroy the quality of the country,” he said.

In support of Cuba’s plans to improve its infrastructure, several global hotel brands maintain many new-build and re-branding/renovation deals across the country. This includes the re-branding of Miramar, Havana’s Hotel Quinta Avenida as the Four Points by Sheraton Havana in June 2016 and the opening of Switzerland-based Kempinski’s the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana later this year.