Feb 12

Airbnb – A win-win for Cuba & Tourists

If you would like a $40 discount on your first Airbnb stay, please click HERE.  (full disclosure: I get a $20 credit)

My friend and I traveled in Cuba in November 2017 on an independent people to people tour.  As  President Obama had lifted many of the restrictions, and direct flights from the US had started, tourism is on the rise.  Additionally, we ran into many Europeans, primarily Germans, French, and Poles that said they “wanted to travel to Cuba before the Americans ruin it”.  Due to the rise in tourism, we had read online that sometimes it was difficult to find a Casa Particular – a small privately run guesthouse.    Enter: Airbnb

Airbnb had a plethora of Casas available, some with enough reviews to feel confident in our choices.  Amongst the places we stayed were:

* A 3rd floor apartment in Havana that was walking distance to both Vedado and old town.  Complete with a balcony overlooking the street were we took our meals.

* A cute one-story on the edge of Vinales with rocking chairs on the front porch where I was able to view the mogotes rock formations as I sipped on coffee grown on the owner’s mother’s finca (ranch).

* A historic building just a few blocks from the center square of Trinidad with a roof top patio where an amazing breakfast could be enjoyed in the sun.

* A 1940’s building just kitty-corner to the main plaza of Cienfuegos with extremely high ceilings and eclectic furnishings.  The balcony with rocking chairs overlooked the main plaza.

* A super clean guesthouse in Playa Larga just a block off the beach with a friendly owner and amazing meals.

* The average nightly price for 2 people was $28 for these amazing historic places.  This was an amazing deal and it was nice to know we had a place reserved and a Casa owner waiting for us at each town.

I talked to several of the Casa owners and they said that Airbnb was very good for them.  When 90% of the Cuban people are employed by the government and earn an average of $20-25 a month, the Casa owners are some of the highest earners.  A Casa owner can rent 2 rooms at $25+ per night, serve breakfast to most guests at $5 each, and occasionally serve dinners to guests for $8-12.  Unfortunately, not all of this money goest to the Casa owner.  Airbnb is great for these Casas because many of the good Casas have close to 100% occupancy.

However, there are some negatives.  Owners need to pay about 10% just to convert payments from collection on the web to cash in the owners hand.  And then the Cuban government wants it’s piece.  They charge a tax equal to $75 per room per month, whether occupied or not plus an additional 10% of reciepts.  Casa owners are required to register all guests & passport numbers.  If an unregistered guest is found in a Casa, there is a significant fine from the government.    Perhaps the saddest is more a reflection on communism than anything else.  A couple of our Casa owners had quit government jobs to run their casas.  Sometimes well-educated and respected jobs such as teachers and computer programmers.  Some of them liked their jobs but found out they could just make so much more by running the Casa.

If you would like a $40 discount on your first Airbnb stay, please click HERE.  (full disclosure: I get a $20 credit)


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