Will US Government Employees Need To Avoid The Four Points By Sheraton Havana Due To Its Affiliation With FAR?

While there are neither United States statutes nor United States regulations prohibiting employees of the United States government from directly or indirectly providing payments to entities controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Republic of Cuba (FAR), might political considerations result in an avoidance of the Four Points By Sheraton Havana?

Section 515.337 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) "Prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba" for the purpose of certain transactions (remittances, etc.) states:

"For purposes of this part, the term prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba means Ministers and Vice-ministers, members of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People's Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub-Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional)."

From The United States Department of State: "Foreign Per Diem rates are established monthly by the Office of Allowances as maximum U.S. dollar rates for reimbursement of U.S. Government civilians traveling on official business in foreign areas. Lodging and M&IE (Meals & Incidental Expenses) are reported separately followed by a combined daily rate.  For regulations pertaining to these rates, see the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) established by the General Services Administration and implementing regulations established by Federal Agencies."

For Havana: Maximum Per Diem Rate is US$316.00- Maximum Lodging Rate US$205.00; Meal & Incidental Rate US$111.00 (Breakfast US$17.00, Lunch US$28.00, Dinner US$44.00, Incidentals US$22.00).

The published rates for Four Points By Sheraton Havana are US$190.00 (SGP- Starwood Guest Program Member Exclusive); US$200.00 including breakfast; US$600.00 Rack Rate; 20,000 Starpoints.

In 2016, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury granted a license(s) to Stamford, Connecticut-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (2015 revenues exceeded US$5.7 billion) to manage properties owned by Republic of Cuba government-operated entities located in the city of Havana, Republic of Cuba.  

The properties are Gran Caribe-owned Hotel Inglaterra; Habaguanex-owned Hotel Santa Isabel and Hotel Quinta Avenida (re-branded as Four Points by Sheraton Havana).  The Hotel Quinta Avenida is owned by Republic of Cuba government-operated Gaviota SA, which is controlled by the FAR.

The Four Points By Sheraton Havana commenced operations on 27 June 2016; the following statement is on its reservations portal:

“Reservations for this hotel are prepaid and there are NO REFUNDS for changes or cancellation. Additional charges at the Hotel are NOT payable with US credit cards and must be paid in CASH or with non US issued credit cards.”

According to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, "The current reservation policies are the result of Starwood’s assessment of market conditions.  We are conscious of the issues resulting from cash requirements and the limitations on payment methods. Thus, we are working to accept as many payment methods as possible based on what has been made available under the current regulatory framework.  We expect to be able to offer additional options in the near future."

When making a reservation at a property located within the Republic of Cuba using the online portal of the management company, for example Spain-based Melia Hotels International (2015 revenues exceeded US$2 billion) and France-based AccorHotels (2015 revenues exceeded US$5 billion), a reservation may be changed or cancelled and may be prepaid using a non-United States-based financial institution-issued credit/debit card, but may not (yet) be prepaid using a credit card/debit card issued by a United States-based financial institution.

Are the Four Points by Sheraton Havana payment policies a reflection of requirements by Republic of Cuba government-operated Gaviota SA, the Central Bank of the Republic of Cuba, the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Cuba?

Regulations Do Not Require

There are no regulations issued by the OFAC that prevent prepayment or require prepayment, that prevent refunds for changes or cancellation.  The OFAC has authorized credit cards and debit cards issued by United States-based financial institutions (including American Express, VISA, MasterCard, Discover, Diners Club, etc.) for use in the Republic of Cuba.

Pompano Beach,Florida-based Stonegate Bank is authorized by the OFAC and Central Bank of the Republic of Cuba to have its MasterCard credit/debit card valid for use in the Republic of Cuba.  San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Banco Popular of Puerto Rico has announced plans to have its MasterCard credit/debit card valid for use in the Republic of Cuba.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott International (2015 revenues exceeded US$14 billion) is acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and confirms its discussions with Republic of Cuba government-operated companies to identify property-management opportunities within the Republic of Cuba.