Cuba-bound sun seekers from Canada and around the world will now have another accommodation alternative: Airbnb.
The community-driven hospitality group will open its doors to international travellers beginning April 2 in what it calls “a landmark moment.” The date will mark the San Francisco-based company’s first year anniversary on the island. Airbnb was the first major American company to enter Cuba after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente on Dec. 17, 2014.
The allowance for expansion is said to be part of the Obama administration’s efforts to improve relations with Cuba.
“Airbnb has been granted special authorization by the U.S. Department of Treasury to allow the company to provide accommodations in Cuba to non-US travelers,” reads a release.
“This will now give everyone the opportunity to experience the real Cuba through the neighbourhoods and homes of [locals].”
Over the past year, more than 13,000 guests have reportedly booked stays in Cuba through Airbnb. The company adds that roughly 4,000 Cubans have listed their homes on the site — making the country its fastest-growing market. About a third of the listings are outside Havana, including Trinidad, Viñales, Santiago de Cuba, Matanzas and Cienfuegos.
Hosts have reportedly earned an average of US$250 per booking to date.
But there are plenty of options under $100 CAD. Here are six of the top ones:
1. Casa Lamarina; Baracoa, Cuba — C$33/night (sleeps 7)
The two-bedroom property boasts a “panoramic sea view,” Cuban cuisine, and a five-minute walk away from a historic town centre.
2. Casa Lunass; Havana, Cuba — $46/night
This modern rental is advertized as perfect for the artsy types. It’s a five-minute walk to old Havana and just 150 metres from the Malecon (the boardwalk).
3. Casa Colonial 1830; Trinidad Sancti Spíritus, Cuba — $52/night
This remodelled air-conditioned casa was built in 1830 in the historic centre of Trinidad, Cuba. It now features “contemporary touches” and an “excellent view from the terrace.”
4. Colonial style B&B By the Sea; Havana, Cuba — $60/night
“Located in the most ancient part of the Malecon Habanero, seafront and within walking distance of downtown,” this colonial home “offers its guests a very special environment where taste and tradition come together.” It includes 19th century Cuban furniture and a long balcony where travellers can dine while enjoying a view of the sea.
5. Habitación Doble Número 2; Havana, Cuba — $60/night
This 1860 home also gives guests the experience of an authentic colonial house “with the amenities of a boutique hotel and the charm of a private home.”
Guests get to enjoy breakfast, snacks, bar service, access to the swimming pool, gym and a massage centre.
The Airbnbs may be a welcome reprieve for travellers who aren’t into the all-inclusive resort scene, or those who have been burned by a bad hotel stay.
WATCH: Travellers fear bad memories at Cuban resorts, want changes
All hotels in Cuba are now owned by government agencies and many are known for poor service and decrepit infrastructure. Foreign hotel chains operate some of the island’s larger and more luxurious hotels, which are running at full capacity thanks to a post-detente boom in tourism that saw visitor numbers surge nearly 20 per cent last year.
One of the first openings in Cuba’s centrally planned economy came when the government allowed families to rent rooms in their homes for a few dollars a night, starting in the 1990s. That has become a full-blown private hospitality industry, with many Cubans using capital from relatives abroad and even foreign investors to transform crumbling homes into the equivalents of small boutique hotels.
Many travellers found it hard to guarantee bookings and make electronic or credit card payments. Airbnb is promoting its service as a solution to those problems in Cuba.
With files from The Associated Press
© 2016 Shaw Media