You don’t have to be American to stay in an Airbnb, and while that may be old news for most countries, it’s a brand new development for Cuba. On Sunday, the San Francisco hotel alternative was cleared by the Obama administration to host guests from around the world in the Caribbean island nation, so act fast, friends — it’s officially tourist season.
Airbnb was one of the first large American companies to cash in on the Cuban opportunity when relations were normalized with the U.S. at the end of 2014. But their operations remained rather limited for the last year — only American travelers were able to book stays in Cuban residences, as a remnant of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo. But now, all that has changed, and the lifted ban serves as a huge source of potential income for Cubans, as well as a boon to travelers from other countries looking to forego traditional hotels for a more authentic stay.
The news comes in the midst of Obama’s highly publicized trip to Cuba, making him the first sitting American president to pay the nation visit since 1928. And while he’s probably not staying in an Airbnb, he’s opening a lot more doors for business. Since last April, Cuba has proven to be one of Airbnb’s fastest growing markets, with 4,000 homes added in the last several months.
Starting April 2, anyone will be able to book a stay in an Airbnb in Cuba and experience firsthand a unique, private hospitality industry. As the Associated Press notes, renting out rooms has been a part of the Cuban economy for decades — indeed, a number of Cubans have turned their private homes into what basically amount to small hotels.
“[Airbnb] was viewed as a new idea and here it was something that was already familiar to the culture,” Airbnb founder Brian Chesky told CBS. “There were tens of thousands of people that were already sharing their homes and so we felt like it wasn’t that big of a risk. And all we had to do was make sure the community embraced Airbnb.” And boy, have they ever.