Expedia said today that it now offers Cuba hotel bookings online. A quick look at their site shows quite a few offerings for both hotel rooms and BNB’s (casas particulares, or rooms for rent in private homes). Thus Expedia joins AirBnB in booking rooms from private individuals.
The prices on hotels and casas seem to be all over the place, so it may be chaotic for a while.
This will make a huge difference for Americans traveling to Cuba since our credit cards don’t work there so hotels had to be booked through tour operators, travel agencies, etc. Direct booking was not easy.
Note: Many Cuba hotels seem to stay booked, so don’t expect too many hotel bargains. See my page on Cuba Accommodations for types of rooms available. These range from luxury all-inclusive to simple rooms to rent (casas particulares).
Expedia joins a dozen U.S. airlines and cruise operators that have already ventured into the Cuban market since the United States announced a detente with its former Cold War foe in 2014 and eased travel and trade restrictions.
The number of visitors to Cuba rose 13 percent to a record 4 million in 2016, driven by a 74 percent jump in U.S. travelers. A survey recently showed the number of American visitors alone could multiply sevenfold to 2 million by 2025.
“We are very excited about being able to facilitate travel and give people the independence to select their itinerary,” said Vega.
Expedia said it would offer both hotel and BnB options and that customers would be able to pay online at the time of booking.
Americans previously had to reserve Cuban hotels principally through travel agencies or tour groups.
Since 2015, American tourists have also been able to book properties in Cuba on Airbnb Inc. The online home-rental marketplace said last year the island had become its fastest growing market ever.
Expedia said that for U.S. travelers, it was operating under a general license right for all travel service providers. For non-U.S. travelers, it was operating under a specific license granted by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in December 2016.
U.S. law still bans general tourism to Cuba, but former President Barack Obama’s administration allowed Americans to travel more easily to Cuba for educational, cultural and other authorized purposes without having to go on organized group tours.
Expedia said Americans would simply have to certify that their trips fell under one of the 12 categories of authorized travel.