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Airbnb’s Fastest-Growing Market: Cuba

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Since the US eased restrictions on travel to Cuba in December, the Caribbean nation has quickly become one of the hottest destinations in the hemisphere. Both commercial airlines and charters have been adding new services to Havana, including JetBlue, which announced it would be adding a weekly service from New York JFK-José Martí International Airport starting July 3.

On the lodging side of things, Airbnb opened for business in Cuba last month, and the Miami Herald reports that Cuba is already the country’s fastest-growing market. According to Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky, in the 40 days since the company launched in Cuba with about 1,000 homes, Airbnb has already doubled its listings to 2,000.

While nearly half the properties are in Havana itself, there are also plenty in other locales including Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, and there are some great options, like this lovely-looking house in Havana for just $60 a night.

Havana Airbnb

Better Options for Travelers

Airbnb’s Cuban expansion is good news for several reasons. First, you still can’t search for Cuba hotels on sites such as Orbitz or Expedia. Second, although US travelers can use Amex and MasterCard credit cards in Cuba, many hotels including the Hotel Occidental Miramar, where TPG stayed in Havana, still do not accept them (though usually you can use one when booking through a travel agency). Hopefully, both those facts will change soon, but there’s no telling when that will actually take place.

There are now about 2,000 Airbnb properties in Cuba.
There are now about 2,000 Airbnb properties in Cuba.

On the other hand, Airbnb does accept credit cards, so there’s a way to earn points on Cuba stays after all. Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred even categorizes Airbnb as a travel merchant, so if you use that card to pay, you’ll be earning 2 points per dollar.

Airbnb is also a partner of Amex Membership Rewards, which means you can redeem Amex points earned with cards such as the Amex Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold directly for rentals. While Amex points aren’t great for hotels, Airbnb rentals will give you a decent rate of return. Hotel partner redemptions are 12,000 points per $100, while Airbnb redemptions are 10,000 points per $100 — much better.

All in all, this is good news for travelers hoping to hop over to Cuba since it means more options (more convenient options) to stay all over the country.

For more information on travel to Cuba and maximizing Airbnb rentals, check out the following posts:

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