Today is a big day in Cuba: President Obama is visiting the island nation, marking the first such Presidential trip since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But Obama and his family are just the latest in an increasing wave of tourists visiting the country, and they all need places to stay during their trip. That's why US hotel company Starwood Resorts signed a deal yesterday to "refurbish and manage" two hotels in Havana. And Airbnb announced today that it will open up its listings in the country to all visitors starting on April 2nd.
Both companies had to receive special authorization from the US Treasury Department to expand their offerings. Although the US has moved to normalize relations after a half-century embargo against the island nation, there are still many regulations. The two hotels that will carry Starwood branding, for instance, are owned by state-run companies, one of which is run directly by the military, according to The New York Times. Nevertheless, the step represents the first time a US hotel chain has operated in Cuba in over fifty years.
Although US regulations do not yet allow visits to Cuba for tourism, there are 12 valid reasons for travel, and US airlines are planning for regularly-scheduled service to Cuba later this year. That means Cuba will need more places for people to stay. Airbnb says it has 4,000 listings since it launched in Cuba a year ago. Those rooms have only been available to US travelers to date, but that will change come April 2nd, according to the company's announcement this weekend.