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Expedia opens Cuban market through hotel bookings

Cuba’s capital of Havana has received an influx of visitors since the Obama administration relaxed travel restrictions. (Credit: Larry Luxner)

The Expedia group, the world’s largest online travel agency, announced Tuesday its expansion to the Cuban market that will allow Cuban hoteliers to sell inventory through global Expedia group sites as well as allow travelers to book hotels in the island destination.

The addition of Cuba’s hotel inventory in Expedia’s Caribbean portfolio will open new possibilities for inter-Caribbean and multi-destination travel that may boost growth throughout the region, the company said.

“The Expedia group works closely with partners throughout the Caribbean to ensure that they thrive as the region evolves using tailored strategies and regional data to take advantage of the fast-changing market,” the company said in a press release.

According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s 2016 Industry Performance Report, travel within the region increased for the second straight year, a clear sign of interest by Caribbean travelers in exploring their neighboring countries. According to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism, more than 4 million tourists visited Cuba in 2016, up 13 percent from the previous year.

Among those visitors were more than 614,000 Americans, up 34 percent from the year before. Because of the high interest in the island nation, destinations are already seeing the potential in multi-destination travel promotion, specifically when the Tourism Minister of Jamaica signed an agreement with his counterpart in Cuba to facilitate multi-destination marketing between the countries, during the 2016 Jamaica Product Exchange.

Citing the New York Times, Expedia said international companies are already looking to Cuba to take advantage of the destination’s rising popularity with U.S. consumers.

“We are excited to make Barceló properties in Cuba accessible to travelers on Expedia platforms around the world,” said, Josep Brichs, corporate commercial director for Barceló Hotel Group Latin America.

“We are very proud Barceló Solymar and Barceló Arenas Blancas in Varadero have been one of the first bookings made on Expedia upon the opening of the destination. Expedia is a key partner and our priority is to develop new opportunities on the international travel industry together,” Brichs said.

Meanwhile, a new International Monetary Fund study stated that if U.S. travel restrictions are lifted it could result in 3-5.6 million U.S. arrivals in Cuba with most of the boost coming from visitors who have never traveled to the Caribbean before.

If restrictions are lifted, the Cuban government will have a higher chance to achieve their goal of 10 million visitors by 2030, the New York Times reported.

“We’ve been working around the clock with Cuban hoteliers to offer this iconic, culture-rich destination to our global consumers, with the added convenience of online booking through a trusted travel partner,” said Demetrius Canton, Expedia’s director of market management for the Caribbean.

“We’re excited to finally announce our expansion into Cuba, which will hopefully allow us to dive deeper into the Caribbean region and help our partners thrive,” he said.

“By further strengthening the value proposition that we offer, our local teams will continue to help hotel partners set their distribution strategy and take advantage of trends to reach and surpass their bottom line,” Canton added.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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