Airbnb expands to Cuba

Airbnb expands to Cuba
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The San Fransisco-based accommodations coordinator Airbnb is expanding to Cuba following the Obama administration’s easing of travel restrictions to the country in December. 

The company, which helps homeowners rent out their residences for a short time, announced that it will begin listing more than 1,000 Cuban rentals on its website starting Thursday. 

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“For the first time in decades, licensed American travelers will have the chance to experience authentic Cuban hospitality at homes across the island,” Airbnb said in announcing the expansion. 

The company connects people online wishing to temporarily rent out their homes with those looking for a short stay. After starting in 2008, the company has expanded to 190 countries so far, and it is valued at upwards of $10 billion. 

While the U.S-Cuba trade embargo still remains in place, the White House announced a series of moves in December meant to allow more contact with the nation just off Florida’s southern coast. 

The administration made it easier for U.S. travelers to obtain a license for one of the 12 authorized reasons for travel to the country, including educational activity, activities of private foundations, religious activity and more. 

The administration also opened up the export of certain telecommunications equipment, given the country’s poor Internet infrastructure. Last year, the White House noted the country had just a 5 percent penetration rate. 

Airbnb has had to find work-arounds for this problem. The company relies on a Web connection for property owners to list their homes and renters to pay. To bypass Cuba’s low connection rate, the company is having certain groups manage the listings and payments, according to reports

But the company said the home-sharing idea of Airbnb is already present in the Cuban culture.  

“Cubans have been welcoming visitors into their homes for decades. Casas particulares — a network of private homestays — have been a popular choice for visitors, as well as an important source of income for thousands of Cuban families,” the company said.