Airbnb’s relationship with VaCuba fails Cubans running ‘casa particulares’

Stefano Marzoli left his Italy for Cuba about four years ago. He runs one of the casa particulares in Havana that are struggling with Airbnb’s lack of payment. 

The digital platform, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia founded in San Francisco about nine years ago, started to connect Cubans with foreigners two years ago. Marzoli credits them for the growth of his business. 

“At least 30 to 40 percent more customers,” said Marzoli, a former sales man.

His relationship with Airbnb started to go sour with the late payments. Airbnb uses VaCuba, a Miami-based agency that exchanges dollars for Cuban currency. The Better Business Bureau reports VaCuba’s failure to respond to 12 complaints filed against them exempts them from a rating. 

On the Airbnb’s community section’s there are several pages of complaints about delays in payments that go back to Dec. 15, 2015. In March, a user claimed VaCuba changed their method of payment to a European bank account. An online community manager in London promised to report her ordeal. 

Marzoli’s complaints to Airbnb haven’t gone unanswered. Airbnb has acknowledged they owe cuenta propistas money and are working to execute a solution. But Marzoli said he is tired of the explanations. He just wants to get paid. 

Marzoli understands their challenge with the U.S. embargo, but he is concerned. Despite the backlog, Airbnb continues to advertise rooms in Havana starting at $35 a night. 

“$100, $200 in the U.S. isn’t much,” Marzoli said. But he added that for operators of casa particulares like him the sum is a small fortune. They have to pay the government taxes and a monthly licensing fee to stay in business. 

Local 10 News Andrea Torres contributed to this report. 

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Skateboarding team in Cuba? Toda Fuerza aims to open doors

From the California’s surf culture of the ’50s to the central plazas of town’s in Cuba, skateboarding has grown into a worldwide cultural identity.

Steven Garcia is passionate about the sport and about Cuba. His dad was born on the island and his mom is Cuban-American.

Last year, he traveled to Havana for the first time with the help of the CubaOne Foundation, a non-profit organization that sponsors trips to U.S.-born millennial of Cuban descent. He said the trip changed him. 

When Garcia returned to South Florida, he founded Toda Fuerza, Spanish for “All Strength.” The organization aims to help creative Cubans like Idania Del Rio, an entrepreneur, and Jorge Rodriguez Diez, a designer known as R10, with an online store

Toda Fuerza also recruited seven Cubans who love skateboarding to join a team and participate in amateur competitions. The hope is that one day Cubans will be able to benefit from the skateboarding industry. 

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