Marriott CEO urges Trump to improve ties with Cuba

Marriott Chief Executive Arne Sorenson speaks during an interview with Reuters in a hotel in Berlin, March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

(Reuters) - Marriott International Inc MAR.O Chief Executive Arne Sorenson on Thursday urged the Trump administration to improve relations with post-Castro Cuba and recognize tourism as a strategic tool in the effort.

His comment come as U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce a new Cuba policy on Friday.

The policy is likely to tighten some rules on travel and trade, and partly roll back former President Barack Obama’s opening toward the island, U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

“It would be exceedingly disappointing to see the progress that has been made in the last two years halted and reversed by the administration,” Sorenson said in an emailed statement.

One of the options being considered by the Trump administration is banning U.S. companies from doing business with Cuban enterprises tied to the military, which controls a large part of the Communist-ruled island’s economy, the people have said.

Marriott, the world’s biggest hotel chain operator, runs the military-owned Gaviota 5th Avenue Hotel under its Four Points Sheraton brand.

The company plans to start operating its second hotel, the state-owned Gran Caribe Inglaterra Hotel, under its Luxury Collection brand by the end of 2019.

With the new policy, Trump is expected to claim fulfillment of a campaign promise to the Cuban-American community to tighten the screws on the government of Cuban President Raul Castro.

Reporting by Alana Wise in New York, Marc Frank in La Habana and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur