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Cuban entrepreneurs launch online portal for private car hire

A trio of enterprising young men in Cuba have just launched a new website offering their services as private taxi drivers to travellers planning to move about during their holidays in Cuba. The newly launched site yotellevocuba.com allows potential foreign visitors to directly contact a network of local drivers and obtain a quote from them prior to their arrival to the island - a pioneering new service never before seen in the island that allows travellers to budget ahead and plan accordingly.

Cuban entrepreneurs launch online portal for private car hire

A pioneering trio of young Cubans have pioneered in the online market of private transportation services after launching a new website under the domain yotellevocuba.com and thus becoming the first online private car hire provider in the Cuba.

At the time of writing the website simply serves as a means of contacting an organised community of drivers via email to obtain a direct quote from them ahead of arranging travel to Cuba. But further down the line, the website could become more interactive and informative, as the government-run telecommunications provider, ETECSA, starts offering data packages to individuals; something that is expected to happen some time soon.

For the moment being internet in Cuba is still very limited and precarious, so the functionality of this new website can only stretch as far as allowing users to send an email to providers with their travel requirements in Cuba and after reviewing their request, a group of up to three different drivers will get back to them with a personal quote each. Clients can then choose the best priced quote or the proposal that looks more appealing or befitting to their needs.

Personal email access in the island is still more a rarity than the norm, so the founders of this new online company spoke of their hardship in collecting a decent amount of drivers to work with them.

Speaking of the difficulties he faced lining up the drivers, the CEO of Yotellevo, who was contacted via email but preferred to remain anonymous, said:

"I've been in the streets convincing them, but also found some by emailing them directly, of course many of them don't have an email account.

"Also many of them are used to be hired the moment of the ride and are not willing to try us. I've discovered some driver's emails because they promote themselves at some listings sites (revolico, porlalivre, etc).

"Not all respond, but getting a response is a way of confirming they can use the emails and are willing to give our system a try. Also, I check that they are nice people by exchanging emails with them and sharing a few rules."

For now, the company is made up of a team of three – the founder (who works for a state-run software company in a provincial city), his brother who lives in Havana and a friend. A fourth member is a cousin in Texas who helped register the domain and pays for the hosting of yotellevocuba.com.

The team behind Yotellevo (which roughly translates into English as “I will take you there”) says they have rounded up a group of over 20 independent drivers throughout the island, all of which have access to email and can directly respond to tourists’ requests to give individual quotes.

This is the firs website that allows users to plan and organise their travels and transportation in Cuba in advance by putting them directly in touch with up to three drivers who will each provide a personalised quote.

But the more romantic and appealing idea behind it all, is not just about the convenience of allowing visitors to organise their transportation in Cuba and compare fares before committing to anything (without having to commit at all, in fact), it’s about the engagement between visitors and locals during their stay in the island, helping enhance and make their Cuba experience all the more authentic. As Yotellevo writes on their website;

"You're not hiring a driver, you are making a friend who has a taxi and can be your driver -- even when you have to pay."

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