WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US lodging rental company Airbnb has jumped into the Cuban market amid normalization between Washington and Havana, and expects the island to become one of its top destinations in Latin America with a flood of US tourists, the company’s spokesperson told Sputnik.
“The company anticipates that Cuba could become one of Airbnb’s biggest markets in Latin America,” the spokesperson said.
After discussions with the Cuban government, Airbnb started opening up bookings for US citizens to stay in the island in April, just months after the two countries decided to normalized relations. According to listings on Airbnb website, hundreds of rental properties are ready to provide accommodation.
Airbnb found Cuba’s system of casas particulares — akin to a bed and breakfast — a “natural fit” for the company’s business model, the spokesperson explained.
The company is taking a “measured approach” to developing its business in Cuba in order to ensure it is creating positive impact for the Cuban people and supporting entrepreneurs who are excited to share their country and culture with the world, Airbnb said.
“Airbnb is making it easier for local casas particulares’ hosts to showcase Cuba’s unique hospitality by welcoming American travellers into their homes,” the spokesperson said. “And the company is supporting Cuba’s growing entrepreneurial community by connecting these casas particulares to a broader American audience, helping to create valuable supplemental income for local hosts.”
New flights from US cities to Cuba are being announced regularly and bookings have skyrocketed since the United States and Cuba announced they would normalize relations.
Currently, nearly 600,000 Americans visit the island every year — largely Cuban-Americans since a regular US tourist is still prohibited from visiting the country. The Cuban government estimates 1.5 million US citizens could visit the island after the normalization of relations.
That would be good news to Airbnb hosts in Cuba, who told Sputnik they are awaiting the day when Americans can freely visit the island, not only so that they spend money, but also so Cubans can share their culture with Americans.
“Definitely this historical moment we are living would be really important in our lives. Normal relationships between our two governments will mean a better future for our two nations and peoples,” Airbnb host Maribel said.
Another host in Havana, Osmary, told Sputnik she still has yet to see a noticeable increase in US visitors compared to Europeans. She is, however, hopeful that once the travel restrictions are lifted it will provide new opportunities.
“More quantity of tourists and the days that they stay brings with it a significant amount of money that results in a greater quality of life for our families,” she said. “We are beginning to see the results of this new period of relations but not only North Americans, also other tourists from many countries who don’t fear coming to our country,” she said.
Last week, the US Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment 18-12 to end travel and commerce restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba.