Last week Airbnb become one of the first U.S. companies to establish a local presence since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December that they would restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of tension. Presently, there are about 1,000 listings concentrated mostly in Havana. Called casas particulares, average room rates are about $42 and and may or may not have hot water.
“Think about the big hotel chains coming in, with mass development,” says Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and chief technology officer. “The idea here is to support growth in travel that isn’t disruptive, that actually celebrates and preserves Cuba as a distinct destination.”
Airbnb is open only to those Americans traveling on the existing government-sanctioned categories for travel to Cuba, including family visits, educational activities and humanitarian projects. Due to trade restrictions, Airbnb’s Cuba listings are open only to United States travelers.
“We couldn’t be more excited that, starting today, licensed U.S. travelers will now be able to experience the unique culture and warm hospitality that makes the island so special through our new Cuban community,” said Nathan.