Airbnb goes Havana
Airbnb has begun offering properties in Cuba, with visitors able to chose from a selection of 1,000 listings, the majority of which are in the capital, Havana. The sharing economy outfit is treading softly, saying it wants to protect Cuba’s uniqueness as it comes under pressure from US capitalism. “Think about the big hotel chains coming in, with mass development,” Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb chief technology officer, tells Bloomberg. “The idea here is to support growth in travel that isn’t disruptive, that actually celebrates and preserves Cuba as a distinct destination.”
Just 4% of Cuban homes have online access, so Airbnb has had to find local intermediaries to help manage listings and connect willing hosts with customers. Plus it has had to contract a licensed money remitter to make payments to owners dealing only in cash.
But don't go thinking that Washington is going easy on Cuba despite the restoration of diplomatic ties. Under US legislation, Airbnb can’t show properties to non-US users, or even help local Cuban hosts design ads for their rentals.