Airbnb, Netflix and Other Brands See Cuba as the Next Land of Opportunity


Cuba has long been shut off from any official relationship with American brands, but the doors have opened slightly in recent months and some brands are taking a chance on the country boost their bottom line.

Airbnb is the latest to jump in. The online home-rental service is allowing American citizens to book places to stay in Cuba. Airbnb has been recruiting Cuban home-owners for the past three months to offer up their places as listings, reports The Verge. And Cubans have responded. More than 1,000 places are available across the country at the site’s launch, according to the Associated Press.

“We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb’s biggest markets in Latin America,” Kay Kuehne, regional director for Airbnb, told AP. “We are actually plugging into an existing culture of micro-enterprise in Cuba. The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago.”

Netflix is another US-headquartered brand investing in Cuba. That announcement came last month in an apparent surprise to the Cuban government, according to CNN.

Of course, not too many Cubans have the ability to stream movies, and Netflix likely will charge more than many Cuban households can afford—but it is a step toward Netflix opening up a new market. “We are investing in all countries for the future, not simply the here and now,” Netflix Director Corporate Communications, Cliff Edwards, told CNN.

MasterCard also has a presence in Cuba, but, according to the AP, “most credit-card issuers still prohibit transactions from Cuba, making MasterCard’s move largely symbolic so far.”

New Jersey’s IDT Corp., meanwhile, has partnered with Cuban state telecom firm ETECSA so Americans could call Cubans directly rather than needing to place calls through third-party countries.

It isn’t just American companies looking to do business in the emerging market that is Cuba these days—Cubans are also adapting and emulating foreign business successes for their home market.

Case in point: (Cuban slang for “a mess”), a Craigslist-like website with lists offering everything from sushi to beach houses, Quartz reports.