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Why the Airbnb Cuba Deal May Not Be Win-Win for Everyone

Airbnb’s foray into Cuba may generate great PR for the company and be good for Cuba in general, but it may not be so hot for the owners of the casas particulares listing their properties on the site. Owners of the B&Bs are already saddled with onerous taxes and fees by the government (more than half of gross receipts in some cases), many of which they pay whether someone is staying there or not, so adding another middleman to the mix that skims a couple points off every transaction may mean less money in the pockets of those who need it most.

For marketing to the foreigners who are so critical to these cuentapropistas, many Cuban homeowners already are reliant on a number of online middlemen who have popped up in recent years to handle inquiries from abroad and advance reservations. These middlemen get a commission from the owners. Now it looks like many of those same middlemen have inserted themselves into the Airbnb ecosystem.

Skift notes that more than half, or 689, of the 1000+ listings in Airbnb’s Cuba directory are managed by five hosts — not exactly the “micro-entrepreneurs” that Airbnb advertised. The official explanation is that because internet is so sketchy on the island, many of the hosts in Cuba are forced to work with people or companies outside the country (one of the five “hosts” lives in Moscow and another in Switzerland) who can actually get online to manage bookings and requests.

With Airbnb in the mix, owners of the casas particulares will get three percent less than they were before for any business that comes their way via the platform. And customers who use the site can expect to pay Airbnb anywhere from 6% to 12% in “guest service fees” for the privilege.

More on the mechanics of how Airbnb will operate in Cuba here.

References:
1- Image was taken by atairbnb

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