Airbnb’s Cuba lobbying blitz pays off

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Airbnb launched an formidable lobbying blitz this summer season to claw again a few of President Trump’s deliberate new restrictions on Cuban journey – and the trouble seems to have paid off.

The fashionable travel-booking web site, which considers Cuba its fastest-growing market, efficiently secured language in Trump’s rules issued this week that can permit Americans to remain in non-public houses, which are sometimes listed on Airbnb, in the event that they go to the island to badist the Cuban folks.

The victory for Airbnb underscores the White House’s wrestle to steadiness its promised crackdown on Cuba with the pursuits of U.S. companies, which have overwhelmingly supported former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIn a single day Cybersecurity: What we realized from Carter Page’s House Intel testimony | House to mark up overseas intel reform legislation | FBI cannot entry Texas shooter’s telephone | Sessions to testify at listening to amid Russia scrutiny Russian social media is the modern-day Trojan horse Trump information robo-call for Gillespie: He’ll badist ‘make America nice once more’ MORE‘s historic opening with the island nation.

 

“Airbnb was founded on the belief that travel helps to break down barriers between people and countries and contributes to a greater understanding of the world,” Airbnb mentioned in an announcement to The Hill.

“We appreciate that hosts will continue to have the chance to share their space and that guests can continue to visit the island. Hosts in Cuba have welcomed guests from around the world and these regulations will allow Airbnb to keep supporting individual Cuban people who share their homes.”

The White House unveiled the small print of its new Cuba coverage on Wednesday, almost 5 months after the president directed companies to craft new guidelines tightening journey and business ties to Cuba. The effort was aimed toward fulfilling Trump’s marketing campaign promise to reverse Obama’s thaw with the communist-run nation.

But internally, the Trump administration wrestled with how far to go in cracking down on the communist regime, in keeping with two sources accustomed to the discussions. Trump ended up leaving the core of Obama’s Cuba insurance policies in tact.

The new guidelines that did come down, and which took impact Thursday, limit Americans’ skill to journey to Cuba and stop enterprise offers with sure entities managed by the Cuban authorities and navy. 

The authorities will not permit particular person “people-to-people” journeys for instructional functionswhich means guests should journey to Cuba with a licensed tour group as an alternative of happening their very own.

But there may be an exception that helps corporations like Airbnb.

Obama had allowed Americans to journey to Cuba for 12 completely different causes, although tourism was nonetheless strictly prohibited. The particular person “people-to-people” clbad turned one of many extra fashionable methods to see Cuba and has been credited with bringing a flood of American guests to the island.

More than 346,000 American residents visited the island in the course of the first six months of 2017 — a 149 p.c enhance from the identical time final yrCommercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba resumed final August, whereas Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015.

A variety of Cuban and U.S. companies have been racing to money in on the journey surge, with Airbnb changing into one of many main beneficiaries of Obama’s relaxed journey guidelines. 

Private bed-and-breakfasts, or “casa particulares”, have lengthy been a typical option to keep in Cuba. Since Airbnb began working on the island within the spring of 2015, at the very least 22,000 rooms have been listed on the travel-booking web site and $40 million was paid to Cuban people who shared their residence. About 35 p.c of Cuba’s Airbnb visitors are American, the San Francisco-based startup added.

But Trump’s June announcement that he could be limiting journey to Cuba despatched shivers by way of the journey and tourism business.

Their prime concern was in regards to the shift from particular person to group journey – a mannequin that’s far harder for bed-and-breakfasts and different small companies to accommodate.

So Airbnb went to work, organising a new in-house group to foyer on the difficulty and spending 1 / 4 of one million over six months.  Previously, Airbnb had solely employed exterior corporations to foyer on its behalf, nevertheless it started to increase its footprint in Washington across the similar time it began lobbying on Cuba for the primary time ever.

Meagan McCanna, who was introduced on to guide Airbnb’s federal affairs final December, turned a registered lobbyist for the corporate beginning in May.

Between April and June, when Trump first introduced the Cuba adjustments, Airbnb spent $160,000 to foyer on points together with “general discussions regarding the Executive Order related to Cuba.”

And from July to September, when the National Security Council (NSC) and different related companies had been within the course of of really drafting language to hold out Trump’s order, Airbnb spent $90,000 to foyer the company on Cuba, amongst different issues. 

The firm’s technique was to teach policymakers about how the platform works and spotlight how the sharing financial system has benefited the Cuban folks.

When the foundations lastly got here out this week, they ended up together with a provision that enables vacationers to remain in non-public bed-and-breakfasts, like these listed on Airbnb, if they’re visiting the island below the “Support for the Cuban People” journey clbad.   

A abstract sheet of the brand new rules says that “renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas)” can now depend in the direction of supporting the Cuban folks. 

However, a traveler should interact in further Support for the Cuban People actions – resembling humanitarian functions and human rights help – to be able to meet the necessities of a full-time schedule.

Still, the language was welcome information for Airbnb and the non-public bed-and-breakfasts that use the travel-booking web site  and even Cuba hard-liners in Congress mentioned it was one thing they may swallow.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartWhite House eyes 7-cent fuel tax hike for infrastructure plan Latino advocacy group targets 7 Republicans in push towards ObamaCare substitute Lawmakers slam plan to separate air site visitors management from FAA MORE (R-Fla.) instructed The Hill.



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