Airbnb has announced that U.S. travelers can now use its short-term rental service to book lodging in Cuba, marking what the Associated Press said is the “most significant U.S. business expansion on the island since the declaration of detente between the two countries late last year.”
More than 1,000 listings of short-term rentals in Cuba are now available for booking on Airbnb’s website.
“For the first time in decades, licensed American travelers will have the chance to experience authentic Cuban hospitality at homes across the island,” Airbnb said in a blog post announcing the expansion.
Airbnb’s push on to the island is the culmination of a monthslong campaign by the firm to sign up homeowners, AP reported.
Cuba’s existing network of private homestays, or “casas particulares,” provides a hospitality infrastructure that could help the firm expand quickly in the country.
“Because we’re building on the rich Cuban tradition of home sharing, we’re uniquely positioned to help Cubans reap the rewards of economic growth while preserving their unique culture,” Airbnb said.
For decades, the U.S. trade embargo has prevented U.S. businesses from entering Cuba. But that changed in January, when the Obama administration took steps to normalize relations with the country.
For now, non-U.S. travelers won’t be able to book homes on Airbnb, and listings will be available only to U.S. travelers who self-certify that they are visiting the country for one of 12 approved purposes, according to AP.
Airbnb may prove an attractive alternative to other websites that travelers have already been using to find short-term rentals in Cuba because it lets users book guaranteed reservations, rather than merely just displaying phone numbers or email addresses, the AP said.
But Cuba’s limited access to both the Internet and the international banking system will pose challenges to Cuban hosts.