TripAdvisor to start selling rooms in Cuba's hotels

Posted: 02-Nov-16 13:40

Thanks to a newly granted licensed by the United States' Treasury Department, travellers from the world over will soon be able to book rooms at Cuba hotels through TripAdvisor, one of the planet's largest online travel companies. This latest move pushes American travellers even closer to Cuba, by simplifying the process of finding accommodation online, especially at a time when finding room availability in the island is trickier than ever.

TripAdvisor to start selling rooms in Cuba's hotels

With hotel room demand at records high in Cuba and the island's tourism industry struggling to accommodate the growing number of visitors, it comes as great news for prospective American travellers to learn they have a new way for booking a room in Cuba ahead of travel to the island.

After a new license issued by the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (O.F.A.C.) granted permission to TripAdvisor for it to start booking not just rooms, but also flights, tours and short-term rentals; a whole world of possibilities opens up for both American and non-American travellers interested in visiting Cuba.

This latest move marks yet another step in bringing Cuba and the U.S. closer, as part of the Obama administration's ongoing efforts to normalise relations since the reopening of both countries' embassies in July 2015.

TripAdvisor voiced its satisfaction with the new amended legislation that allows to sell Cuba to its large worldwide customer base. The company was also happy to add that it expects to start sales to Cuba in the next few months:

"TripAdvisor looks forward to helping travellers all over the world discover Cuba's vibrant history, people and culture as we begin the important work to make these trips possible."

The latest development is another indicator of how the U.S. travel industry continues slowly, but surely expanding its tourism offering in the Cuban nation.

However, reasons for visiting Cuba for American citizens must still fall within at least one of the 12 categories authorised for travel by the O.F.A.C. which includes educational and cultural purposes, as well as humanitarian and academic initiatives and journalistic or religious activities.

The fact is that travel to Cuba for Americans is more simplified than ever, as it is not very hard to fall within one of the categories, and, as long as you spend money in private local businesses (like "casas particulares" or "paladares") you're complying with one or two of the rules of engaging with the locals (that's the cultural side covered) and contributing to the local private economy sector.

While, currently TripAdvisor users are able to view and search for Cuba hotels and flights on their online platform, they are redirected to theird-party booking sites registered outside the United States, like booking.com. This new licence will allow users to book elements of their Cuba trip directly through TripAdvisor without ever leaving the site.

The new license given to TripAdvisor is similar to others granted earlier in the year to other U.S.-based companies like Starwood, which now operates three Cuba hotels, Airbnb which now sells homestays or "casas particulares" in the island through their online platform, or air carriers like JetBlue and American Airlines, both of which now operate regular commercial flights to Cuba.

Still, it remains for Congress to pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act to eliminate all travel restrictions fully. Reintroduced in the Senate in January 2015, the act is yet to become law. On this subject, Seth Kalvert, TripAdvisor's senior vice president said:

"We urge Congress to make these relationships permanent by passing legislation that gives U.S. citizens the unrestricted freedom to travel to Cuba."

The ball is in their court, hopefully the next U.S. president will be successful at campaigning to pass the law and Cuba travel restrictions for American travellers will soon be history.


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