Oh snap. Airbnb is not wasting any time. Starting today, the popular “lodging” pairing website is letting users from the U.S. to book a place to stay for an upcoming visit. There are over 1,000 properties across the island to choose from. The company has been sending reps to the island for the last three months to recruit and sign up homes for the website.
“We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb’s biggest markets in Latin America,” said Kay Kuehne, regional director for Airbnb, the website and mobile app that allows users to book rooms in more than 1 million private homes around the world. “We are actually plugging into an existing culture of micro-enterprise in Cuba. The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago.”
A major drawback for the Cuban private lodging business has been the difficulty of renting from overseas on an island with one of the world’s lower rates of Internet penetration and a constantly malfunctioning phone system. While dozens of websites such as TripAdvisor have listings for lodgings, most only provide phone numbers or email addresses for owners instead of the quick online booking and guaranteed reservations that Airbnb will offer, as it does in more than 190 countries.
While that sentiment holds for travelers, owners still have to grapple with the lack of access to the Internet across the island. Most will have to turn to pricey state-run Internet centers or hotel lobbies to check on reservations. And with much of the international banking system off-limits to Cubans due to U.S. sanctions, owners will depend on friends or business associates to receive payments from Airbnb in non-U.S. bank accounts.
Things are most definitely gettin’ real in Cuba.
[via the Huffington Post]