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Klobuchar seeks to allow American hotels to operate in Cuba

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar called on the Departments of Treasury and Commerce to allow American hotels to operate in Cuba. Since launching in Cuba in 2015, Airbnb has accumulated more than 2,000 listings for travelers to rent, but U.S.

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar called on the Departments of Treasury and Commerce to allow American hotels to operate in Cuba.

Since launching in Cuba in 2015, Airbnb has accumulated more than 2,000 listings for travelers to rent, but U.S. hotel chains cannot operate in Cuba due to treasury and commerce department regulations. Additionally, hotel operators from Spain and the United Kingdom are already negotiating deals to build hotels in Cuba.

In a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Klobuchar, the chair of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus, urged both departments to consider amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations to authorize U.S. investment in the Cuban hotel industry.

"As diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to progress, there are increasing opportunities to do business and improve economic opportunities and the quality of life in Cuba," Klobuchar wrote. "I strongly believe that continuing to isolate Cuba will be contrary to our interests and disadvantage American businesses and farmers. Removing regulatory barriers and ensuring that the U.S. hospitality industry has a fair shot in Cuba is another way that we can continue to make progress towards officially ending the embargo."

Klobuchar is leading the bipartisan Freedom to Export to Cuba Act-which currently has 23 Senate cosponsors. The bill lifts the current embargo and allows more U.S. goods to be exported to Cuba. The bill would eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba, boosting job creation and exports, Klobuchar reported. It does not repeal provisions of current law that address human rights in Cuba or that allow individuals and businesses to pursue claims against the Cuban government.

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Klobuchar attended the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba with Secretary of State John Kerry in August. She also recently testified before the International Trade Commission to highlight the benefits of lifting the trade embargo with Cuba.

"In order to ensure that U.S. companies receive a fair shot to compete in this emerging market, we must closely review the current restrictions on investment in Cuba as set forth in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations, and amend them to authorize U.S. investment in the hotel industry," Klobuchar wrote in her letter. "We have already begun to see what will happen if we fail to take action: other countries will continue to expand their hotel and travel opportunities in Cuba while U.S. companies are excluded.

"Reports indicate that the Spanish hotel operator, Meliá Hotels International, aims to have 15,000 rooms in Cuba by 2018. The U.K. hotel and real estate development firm, London + Regional Properties Ltd., recently negotiated a deal to build a hotel, 18-hole golf course and condominium project. American hotel companies should also have the opportunity to serve the estimated 1.5 million Americans that will travel to Cuba once restrictions are lifted. In fact, some American hotel companies have experience in similar markets. Carlson, a Minnesota based hotel chain, opened the first hotel in the former Soviet Union in 1991."

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