By the Caribbean Journal staff
Hospitality firm Airbnb is coming to Cuba.
The short-term hospitality company announced the move on Thursday, making it one of the first US companies to offer accommodations for licensed US travelers since the US-Cuba rapprochement last year.
“When we founded Airbnb in 2008, our dream was to help create a world where you could belong anywhere, and that vision has taken root in almost every country in the world,” said Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb. “For over 50 years, Cuba has been out of reach for most Americans. We couldn’t be more excited that, starting today, licensed US travelers will now be able to experience the unique culture and warm hospitality that makes the island so special through our new Cuban community.”
The company pointed to what it called Cuba’s large network of so-called casas particulares, home stays run by locals.
Airbnb said more than 1,000 such casas particulares had added their homes to Airbnb’s network.
“While some hosts have limited internet access, others are working with hosting partners to help them manage their online requests and bookings,” the company said.
Of Airbnb’s Cuba listings, around 40 percent are in Havana, with the remainder in cities like Matanzas, Cieinfuegos and Santa Clara. The company has eyes on expansion around the island.
The company also said it would be expanding its photography programme to Cuba, meaning work that uses local photogarphers to shoot images of rental properties.
For now, the company said it expected “significant demand” for Cuban accommodations for US travelers.
After December’s rapprochement and the concomitant changes in travel regulations, Airbnb saw a 70 percent spike from US users looking for listings in Cuba, it said.
“Cuba has already become one of the company’s most searched for destinations in Latin America, with more Americans searching for it than Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, or Mexico City,” the company said.
Only US travelers who meet one of 12 licensed categories of travel can book travel on Airbnb.