For Americans seeking sand and sunshine, this week's announcement of normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba offered the future prospect of an enticing new travel destination. And for the U.S. travel industry, the policy—though it doesn't fully open tourism to Cuba—has provided an exciting jolt of new possibilities. Namely, hordes of U.S. tourists shelling out to visit the formerly forbidden country.
"This news from Cuba is interesting to us," said Andrew Alexander, president of Red Roof Inn, which announced its first international location, in Brazil, on Dec. 17. "I view it as the first step, and one that probably will ultimately lead to a further opening of the country. Which certainly makes Cuba—from a tourism standpoint—a target for most hotel companies."