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Airbnb Available In Cuba For American Travelers

Starting Thursday American travelers will be able to book lodging in Cuba through the popular online service Airbnb.

An Airbnb search for "Cuba" will now offer over 1,000 properties across the island, with 40 percent in Havana and the rest in other tourist destinations such as Cienfuegos on the southern coast.

"We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb's biggest markets in Latin America," said Airbnb's regional director, Kay Kuehne.

The deal with Airbnb, which allows users to book rooms in more than 1 million private homes around the world, is one of the most significant business announcements since the declaration of detente between Cuba and the U.S. late last year. In the past 50 years the trade embargo has blocked U.S. businesses from entering the Cuban market.

The Airbnb move could help bolster one of the Obama administration's leading goals in U.S.-Cuba relations - putting more money in the pockets of Cuban entrepreneurs across the island.

"I think this is going to help our business prosper, to definitely improve, not just private business, but everything here," said Israel Rivero, the owner of a renovated pre-war apartment in central Havana who charges $25 a night to rent a room. The price will go to $30 on Airbnb to cover fees and currency exchange costs.

Airbnb's Kuehne said the company is utilizing the spirit of micro-enterprises among Cubans. "The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago."

For the time being only American travelers will be able to book lodging in Cuba through Airbnb.

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--The Associated Press