PICS: Why Airbnb in Cuba is the hottest new travel trend

2016-03-23 16:28 - Michael Weissenstein
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Havana — Online lodging service Airbnb is allowing travelers from around the world to book stays in private homes in Cuba after the San Francisco-based company received a special authorization from the Obama administration, Airbnb announced Sunday, 20 March.

Airbnb was the first major American company to enter Cuba after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente on 17 Deccember 2014. The service handles online listing, booking and payments for people looking to stay in private homes instead of hotels.

Cuba has become its fastest-growing market, with about 4 000 homes added over the last year.

Prices on the lodging service is relatively low. For around R500, guests can stay in typical Cuban family homes right in the heart of tourist hotspots. 

Here are a few of our favourite listings in Havana: 

Havana Rent Room "María Isabel"

, Havana, Cuba
This house located right in the heart of Habana City, has a perfect location between the Modern Habana and the Old Habana. It is in Centro Habana Municipality and it's very close to the Malecón.Th...
Vacation Home Rentals in


La Habana, La Habana, Cuba
Io Lisette, metto a disposizione nella mia casa coloniale, in Centro Avana (vicinissimo al Malecon) 2 camere matrimoniali, entrambe con bagno privato (doccia con acqua calda) e condizionatore auton...
Vacation Rentals in La Habana

B&B Enjoy Havana Day and Night.

Havana, Havana, Cuba
Beautiful apartment, located in the heart of Havana a few blocks from the street 23 and "LA RAMPA", "EL VEDADO, University of Havana and "Malecon" Avenue where you can visit nightclubs, bars, disco...
Vacation Rentals in Havana

Airbnb had only been allowed to let US travellers use its services in Cuba under a relatively limited Obama administration exception to the half-century old US trade embargo on the island.

The expansion of that license gives Airbnb the ability to become a one-stop shop for travellers seeking lodging in private homes, which have seen a flood of demand from travelers seeking an alternative to state-run hotels.

Airbnb's new authorization was announced on the morning of an historic three-day trip by Obama to Cuba and a day after Starwood Hotels announced that it had signed a deal to run three Cuban hotels, becoming the first US hotel company in Cuba since Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and took over the island's hotels.

Airbnb said world travellers could begin booking in Cuba on 2 April, the anniversary of the country's start of operations on the island.

Also on Sunday, Marriott International Inc said it had gained Treasury Department authorization to pursue a deal in Cuba. The hotel company, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, said it is in talks with potential partners on the island. Its CEO, Arne Sorenson, is in Cuba with Obama's delegation.

All hotels in Cuba are now owned by government agencies and many are known for poor service and decrepit infrastructure. Foreign hotel chains operate some of the island's larger and more luxurious hotels, which are running at full capacity thanks to a post-detente boom in tourism that saw visitor numbers surge nearly 20% last year.

One of the first openings in Cuba's centrally planned economy came when the government allowed families to rent rooms in their homes for a few dollars a night, starting in the 1990s. That has become a full-blown private hospitality industry, with many Cubans using capital from relatives abroad and even foreign investors to transform crumbling homes into the equivalents of small boutique hotels.

Many websites allow foreigners to book Cuban private homes, known as "casas particulares," but none has emerged as a dominant player. Many travelers still find it hard to guarantee bookings and make electronic or credit card payments. Airbnb is promoting its service as a solution to those problems in Cuba.

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