Cuba is hoping to boost the number of Chinese tourists as part of the island’s attempts to develop its tourism potential. Figures showed that only 28,000 Chinese citizens traveled to the country in 2015, representing only a small proportion of the 3 million total foreign visitors the Caribbean nation receives.
Many Chinese companies are also understood to be shifting their focus to provide tailor-made services for Chinese travelers. With its rich history, beaches and golf courses, it has proved an attractive draw to visitors around the world, and tour operators in Cuba have been developing a series of tours to specifically attract more Chinese travelers.
“We’ve seen a steady number of Chinese tourists to Cuba in recent years,” said Li Mengran of Beijing Utour International Travel Service Co. “We expect the number to double or triple in the next few years,” says Tania Velazquez Lopez, the former consul-general to China. By the year 2020, she says, Cuba is planning to offer at least 85,000 hotel rooms for Chinese visitors.
Meanwhile, Air China launched flights between Beijing and Havana via Montreal in December, 2015. Chinese investment is also strong with the Beijing Enterprises Group Company signing a deal in May 2015 to build a golf resort. 13 other leisure tourism projects worth a combined 460 million US dollars are currently underway.
Last year, roughly 100 Chinese booked trips through Utour, which offers an 11-day luxury tour during the annual Spring Festival holiday costing 21,800 yuan (3,260 US dollars) per person.
34-year-old Beijinger, Tan Hao, spent eight days traveling in Cuba in June last year, said he would consider a second trip to the island now that getting to Cuba is easier. He added that he was especially impressed by the beaches and the European-style buildings in Havana’s old town, which feature arcades, wrought-iron gates and courtyards.
“There are many great churches, castles and watchtowers in good condition, as well as Ernest Hemingway’s former residence,” he said.