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Cuba, Airbnb, and the Future of Flexible Accommodation


Airbnb announced last week that it was launching in Cuba with over 1,000 listings. Beyond being a significant milestone in the normalization of relations with Cuba and a sign of the pent-up demand for travel to this beautiful island, it is also a significant milestone for the accommodation industry.

Flexible accommodation options, which we define as short-term rentals that can as easily accommodate travelers one month and long-term tenants the next, are one of the most important developments in the overall accommodation industry. They allow a destination to quickly “spin-up” the supply of rooms to meet increased demand without the need to build new hotels. Then, when demand goes back to normal, those rooms magically get reabsorbed into the housing supply for long-term tenants.

Just as Uber can bring more drivers onto the road during periods of increased demand, and as software engineers can quickly spin up new servers to accommodate brief periods of increased traffic to their website, now cities can spin up more rooms to meet a brief surge in demand.

This isn’t a foreign concept for Cuba, which has relied on a vast network of casas particulares to house tourists for several decades, without needing to build a huge hotel infrastructure…

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