The company announced the move on Thursday, and is presumably hoping to profit from the increased number of U.S. travelers to Cuba following the normalization of relations between the respective governments, according to Reuters.
Travel restrictions partially lifted by Obama
The Communist-run nation has been subject to travel restrictions since the Cold War, but now U.S. citizens will be allowed to visit the island for a number of reasons including family visits or education. Lifting restrictions on travel for tourism has been proposed by U.S. lawmakers.
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Following the announcement from President Obama, Airbnb claims to have observed a 70% spike in searches for rentals in Cuba. As a result over 1,000 more listings on the Caribbean island have been added to the company site.
In order to make a booking through Airbnb, Americans will have to assert that they have official government permission to travel in Cuba. As it stands, services in Cuba are only available to Airbnb users in the U.S., but could soon expand to include users from other countries.
According to the National Foreign Trade Council, a lobbying group that advocates for the lifting of international trade barriers, Airbnb’s expansion should go some way to meeting “soaring demand” for accommodation in Cuba.
Other U.S. businesses moving into Cuba
Some American travelers have been making trips to Cuba despite the restrictions, but they generally visit resorts on the north coast of the island. The general lack of high-end hotels boasted by other destinations means that choice is limited.
The lifting of restrictions means that other U.S. businesses have also started offering their services in Cuba. One such example is Kayak, owned by online travel agency Priceline Group Inc., which has added Cuba to its website.
Several airlines have expressed an interest in adding flights to Cuba, and Airbnb looks to be well placed to benefit from the impending tourism boom. It may be time to book your flights to Cuba before the island becomes inundated with hoards of U.S. tourists, robbing the destination of its unique charm.