Airbnb has officially launched in Cuba just a few short months after President Obama’s decision to ease economic and diplomatic relations with the country in late 2014. The accommodations company reported a 70 percent spike in searches for Cuban listings from their US users following the policy changes.
There are already more than 1,000 listings up and running – 40 percent of which are in the capital of Havana. How did the surge happen so fast? Outside of resorts, many visitors have relied on Cuba’s countless private home-stays, or casas particulares, which have now made the transition to the popular rental service.
But before you mix yourself a rum and coke and start bookmarking listings in Santa Clara, there are limits. Only US visitors heading to the country under one of the 12 license categories permitted by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control can use Airbnb in Cuba. These range from family visits to humanitarian projects to professional research.
There’s another catch: no Canadians allowed.
At the moment, Airbnb says it “plans to seek authorization to support non-US travellers in the future.” Global News spoke to the company and found that since US regulations don’t allow American companies to support non-US travel to Cuba, only Americans can use the popular rental service right now.
That means Canadians will have to continue to go the resort route. Interestingly, Americans can’t, at the moment, buy tourist packages to Cuba supplied by a third country.
US interest in visiting the island nation has grown steadily since the policy changes. According to Airbnb, Cuba has already become one of the company’s most searched for destinations in Latin America for 2015 with more Americans searching out listings there than for Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires or Mexico City.