TripAdvisor selling travel to Cuba is just another step towards the mainstreaming of Cuba as a U.S. tourist destination, and represents a coup for TripAdvisor as it tries to ramp up its bookings business.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has granted TripAdvisor a license to sell travel to Cuba as the organization loosens restrictions on overall travel to Cuba for Americans.
TripAdvisor users will be able to place bookings for hotels, flights, tours, attractions, and short-term rentals using TripAdvisor’s booking tools. This will make TripAdvisor the first major online booking site with ability to sell multiple travel Cuba travel products to U.S. travelers.
TripAdvisor will be able to use display advertising and display products using metasearch, as well, and plans to roll out booking functionality in the next few months.
While TripAdvisor will be the first major U.S. online travel agency to have access, Booking.com received clearance to sell hotel rooms earlier this year. Airbnb, of course, has been extremely active in Cuba, allowing travelers to stay in Cuban cities despite the lack of available hotel rooms. Many U.S. travel agencies and tour operators have been booking trips to Cuba for years.
“Cuba continues to be one of the only countries in the world where the United States imposes significant travel restrictions,” said TripAdvisor president and CEO Stephen Kaufer in a release. “We applaud President Obama’s policies to ease these restrictions and build relations with our island neighbor just 90 miles south of Florida. TripAdvisor looks forward to helping travelers all over the world discover Cuba’s vibrant history, people and culture as we begin the important work to make these trips possible.”
From the traveler perspective, travel to Cuba booked through TripAdvisor still needs to fall into one of twelve categories approved by OFAC, including family visits, educational activities, and more.
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Photo credit: TripAdvisor will likely become the first major U.S. online travel agency to allow comprehensive travel bookings in Cuba. Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, Cuba is pictured here. Peter / Flickr