Airbnb is making it even easier for Americans to find a place to stay in Cuba. Time Warner Cable News’ Valarie D’Elia field this report as a part ouf Cuba – Closer Than You Think series.
Since the hotel infrastructure in Cuba is limited to say the least, a popular alternative is to stay with locals in what is known as a casa particular.
“If you stay in a private house, you have the opportunity of exchanging with a Cuban family, of making friends, but also having the opportunity of tasting real Cuban food,” says Ilina Ferriol of Viajes Cubanacan.
Casas particulares have been around for more than a decade – an association of homeowners opening their doors to visitors. If you think that sounds like a familiar model, you are right. And it didn’t take long for Airbnb, the popular San Francisco-based home and room rental website, to make their move after President Obama loosened up travel restrictions late last year.
Airbnb is now listing a thousand of these affordable casas particulares online, from Havana to Cienfuegos, available only to U.S.-licensed travelers.
Americans booking a stay in Cuba through Airbnb must fall into one of the 12 categories authorized by the Treasury Department, and attest to it when they book online.
Even though Americans cannot yet use credit cards in Cuba, they can do so on Airbnb, who in turn makes a cash payment to the Cuban host’s bank account, or in some cases, arranges a door-to-door delivery.
Airbnb shoots for a 24-hour turnaround for a booking, despite the huge challenge of connectivity. While some hosts have limited internet access, others are working with hosting partners to help them manage their bookings.
Estimates of the number of casas particulares in Cuba vary widely from as few as 5,000 to quadruple that, so there is room for Airbnb to pump up its business within the island nation.
By Valarie D’Elia, TWCNews
April 20, 2015