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Airbnb arrives in Cuba with US-only listings

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Airbnb has joined Netflix and other American companies doing business in Cuba. The move marks the most significant US business expansion to the Caribbean island since the Obama administration began normalizing relations with the nation, according to the Associated Press. The private rental outfit has high hopes for the region, saying "we believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb's biggest markets in Latin America." Over 1,000 listings are now up on the site, with 40 percent of those in Havana and the rest in nearby tourist spots on the Southern coast.

The service will only be available to American tourists for now, even though they're technically still barred from traveling to Cuba without special permission. However, US companies can now offer trips without any paperwork or inspections, and many tour operators expect American visitors to just ignore the rules. Ironically, tourists from nations like Canada and France who've traveled to the island for years can't yet book an Airbnb property, and the company has yet to say when that policy may change.

Havana Airbnb listing for $23 per night

Private housing rental has been going on in Cuba since the 1990s, providing an alternative to private resorts for tourists who want to be immersed in local culture. Charming, renovated spaces can be found for as little as $20-30 (above), with more luxurious houses running $150 or more. Local operators are hopeful that the listings will be a boon for both tourists and Cuban businesses, since the nation's shortage of internet access makes booking private rentals difficult. One Havana apartment owner told the AP that "I think this is going to help our business prosper, to definitely improve, not just private business, but everything here."

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