It’s a big week for American-Cuban relations this week with President Obama in the middle of a three-day trip to the island nation-–the first visit from an American president since 1928. The visit marks the symbolic end to the U.S. trade embargo that has blocked the countries from exchanging goods and services for the last 50 years. The ending of this embargo officially began on December 17, 2014 and since then American companies have slowly begun getting a footing on Cuban soil.
One of the first tech companies to do so was Airbnb, which almost a year ago expanded to Cuba. However, there were restrictions placed on that expansion: namely Airbnb could only be used to rent local rooms to Americans. While 13,000 Americans to date have used Airbnb for accommodation in Cuba, those restrictions meant that travelers from the rest of the world were locked out of the service there.
But that’s about to change. Airbnb has announced, reports the Associated Press, that is has received special authorization from the Obama administration to book rentals in Cuba to travelers around the world. Global bookings in Cuba will begin on April 2, 2016-–one year to the day after the company launched its first operations in Cuba.
The authorization from the U.S. government to expand its operations in the country will be a huge boon to Airbnb since Cuba is one of its fastest-growing markets, with 4,000 homes already added since last April.
In related bookings news, Priceline Group's Bookings.com has reached a deal with Cuba to become the first online travel agency that allows U.S. customers to book a hotel room in the country, reports Reuters. Customers will be able to book hotel rooms in both Cuban and foreign-owned hotels within the next several weeks. However, upon launch of the service only hotels in Havana will be available for booking.