This morning – less than three months after Obama’s announcement that the US would be easing relations with Cuba – Airbnb announced it will begin listing over 1,000 Cuban homes on the site this week.
In some ways, this seems like a natural move. After all, the Cuban government has long permitted casas particulares, private homes that function akin to bed-and-breakfasts, as accommodations for travelers in Cuba. Incorporating these into Airbnb’s international, widely-used service seems mutually beneficial. Airbnb gets to tap into an existing business model that’s already super similar to its own, and hosts can reach a wider array of potential guests, doing so in a way that is less disruptive than, say, bringing in big hotel chains.
With that said, the concept is not without its challenges, as other publications have pointed out. “Expanding an Internet service to Cuba means overcoming … spotty Web access, limited payment options, and the still-ongoing U.S. embargo,” writes Bloomberg Business. (This same issue is true for Netflix, which, as we reported in February, is also now available in Cuba). It’s also unclear how many casa particular hosts will want to share their profits with a third party. The average Airbnb rate for a room or home in Havana is $43 a night.
Still, Airbnb seems very optimistic.”We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb’s biggest markets in Latin America,” Kay Kuehne, the regional director for Airbnb, told the AP.
Trips to the island have been up nearly 20% in recent months.