Why Are OTAs Not Selling Cuba?
PHOTO: Havana, Cuba (Photo by David Cogswell)
Airlines are flying to Cuba, but you wouldn’t know that if you were trying to book through an online travel agency such as Priceline or Expedia. This has compelled Bloomberg to ask why Cuba is confounding these agencies?
“None of those behemoths—Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, TripAdvisor, or Google Flights—offers air travel or lodging for Cuba, touted as one of the hottest new destinations thanks to more than 50 years of being off-limits to Americans,” notes Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman.
Travel to the country is still banned but the normalizing of relations with Cuba has led to more ways in which people are permitted to travel there — and air travel was one of the forms of travel that is now allowed under certain circumstances.
“Three U.S. airlines have begun commercial service, and five more are expected to start by year’s end. Consumer demand is expected to be strong, and U.S. airlines have rushed for access to the island, where only 110 daily flights from the U.S. are allowed. The American Society of Travel Agents estimates at least 2 million Americans would visit by the end of next year if restrictions were lifted,” reports Bachman.
While U.S. air carriers have jumped at the chance to fly, online travel agencies have resisted the urge to sell.
“So far, though, the big online travel companies have eschewed selling those flights. For one thing, it’s not a financial priority: As airlines have dramatically curbed commissions on ticket sales, online agencies’ margins from selling airfares have contracted, making lodging far more lucrative,” writes Bachman.
The only major online player in the Cuba market is Airbnb, he notes.
“In March, the company announced it was adding 4,000 private lodgings, or casas particulares, in Cuba, calling the nation ‘the fastest-growing market in Airbnb history,’” says Bachman.
However, it’s not that the OTA’s are not planning on coming to the table where Cuba is concerned— they are making plans to enter the market. To find out when and how, read on here.
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