UPDATE 1-Priceline unit Booking.com strikes Cuba deal for Americans
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By Mimi Dwyer
NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - Priceline Group has agreed with Cuba to make Cuban hotel rooms available to U.S. customers via subsidiary Booking.com, becoming the first U.S. online travel agency to strike a deal with the island's government, a Booking.com executive said.
The deal comes on the first full day of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba and on the heels of U.S. hotel firm Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's agreement with the Cuban government to manage and market three Havana hotel properties.
Booking.com would allow Americans traveling to Cuba to reserve and pay for rooms at a number of Cuban and foreign hotels, starting in several weeks, Booking.com Americas Managing Director Todd Dunlap told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.
Americans previously had to reserve Cuban hotels principally through travel agencies or tour groups.
Booking.com would operate initially in Havana, Dunlap said. It planned to work with foreign companies already in Cuba, including France's Accor and Spanish chains Meliá Hotels International SA and NH Hotel Group SA. It was also working on deals with state-run Cuban chains.
The only major American lodging booking service currently available to Americans in Cuba is online home-rental marketplace Airbnb.
Priceline Group began working on bringing its services to Cuba shortly after President Obama's Dec. 17, 2014 announcement of a thaw in relations with Cuba. The two countries restored diplomatic relations last year. Continuación...