Earlier this year President Obama announced that sanctions between Cuba and the United States would be lifted (at least regarding travel) and Americans were finally free to visit an island so close yet theoretically so far away.
Naturally, travel agencies jumped on the news and dozens of vacation packages can now be purchased. But it’s not just agencies that are jumping on the Cuba bandwagon – it’s also Airbnb.
Airbnb announced this week that the company will be adding more than 1,000 rental properties to the Caribbean island, giving Americans access to a country that’s been out of our reach for more than 50 years. While Havana will make up most of their bookings, homes will be found all over the country.
Per an Airbnb press release:
Cuba is renowned for its large network of casas particulares, traditional private home-stays run by local micro-entrepreneurs that have been a popular choice for visitors for many years. Over 1,000 casas particulares owners have added their homes to Airbnb’s global community. While some hosts have limited internet access, others are working with hosting partners to help them manage their online requests and bookings.
Of course, Airbnb won’t be able to run the business there without any snags. First, most of the hosts are asking for cash only out of fear they won’t get paid, and second, Americans can’t use their credit cards in Cuba, thus making it difficult for Airbnb to receive money (and all of their transactions are done online). According to Bloomberg, Airbnb will be working with Florida-based VaCuba – a licensed money remitter that currently sends cash and gifts to families in Cuba – to make payments to hosts on its behalf.
While Airbnb obviously has their work cut out for them, it’s likely to work out in their favor. There are still so few available hotel rooms in Cuba that visitors will have better luck renting a room through a private homeowner. And while the US government has still banned travel based solely on tourism, Airbnb is offering those who are able to visit Cuba one less thing to worry about.