It’s official. Yesterday, Airbnb announced their launch in Cuba, listing 1,000 Cuban properties on its website for American users to book (half of these homes are in Havana). I’m impressed with the official statement made by the company on its blog, specifically stating the support of the Cuban people and it’s growing private sector.
“Because we’re building on the rich Cuban tradition of home sharing, we’re uniquely positioned to help Cubans reap the rewards of economic growth while preserving their unique culture. When Airbnb guests stay in local neighborhoods, they bring business to surrounding entrepreneurs—whether they be hosts, artists, or even ice cream shop owners.”
The listing for Casa Particulares (aka home hotels in Cuba) starts at $30 and up per night. Of course, there will be many snags in the road:
First is the low internet penetration on the island (Time magazine states that Bloomberg reported only 4% of Cuban homes have Internet access of any kind). The Airbnb site relies on healthy internet usage in order to search, communicate, and book rooms. For now, Airbnb is working with “local intermediaries” to manage the listings and connect hosts with customers. There is no such thing as a clean-cut solution in Cuba, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The second issue is the fact Americans pay with cash only once in Cuba. The Airbnb model relies on 3% commission per booking which is made during the online transaction. The makeshift solution has Airbnb contracting a license money remitter, Florida-based VaCuba, to make payments on its behalf.
We salute Airbnb for finding productive solutions to complicated issues during this peaceful transition.