Cuba wants more visitors from China

Updated: 2015-06-25 04:04

By LI JING in Beijing(China Daily Latin America)

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Cuba wants more visitors from China

Historic Havana harbor is one of the attractions that Cuba is hoping will lure tourists from China. Provided to China Daily

The number of foreign visitors in Cuba has increased 14.4 percent year-on-year to 1.47 million people, with Chinese visitors rising 22.2 percent to reach 10,986 people, according to data released late by Cuba's National Bureau of Statistics early this month.

Although Canada still remains the biggest contributor to Cuba's inbound tourists, accounting for 48.2 percent of the total number, China has made gains. It ranks 14th on Cuba's largest source of foreign visitors.

Cuba's sudden increase in popularity among Chinese tourists reflects China's recent Latin America craze.

Air China will open the first direct flight between the Chinese Mainland and Havana, Cuba, after September 28, offering travelers greater convenience. Flights to Cuba will be scheduled from Beijing Capital International Airport and will allow travel between adjacent islands by air or by ship.

Cuba's ecology, unspoiled by excessive tourism, and its variety of indigenous merchandises, including the well-known Cuban cigars, are already appealing to Chinese visitors. After the new airline route opens, Cuba is expected to receive a greater number of Chinese tourists.

Because of the long geographical distance and the overly expensive cost, traditionally Chinese tourists who prefer Latin America to more popular Western countries in Europe and the United States have for long remained the minority.

Until recently no airline company has operated direct fight routes between China and South America. Most visitors have to transfer in European or North American countries before they reach their final Latin American destination. That adds up in cost and travel hours; usually 30 hours or even as long as 40 hours if travelers choose relatively cheap travel plans.

Moreover, Chinese citizens who wish to obtain a tourist visa need to go through extremely complicated procedures. Because of the lack of agreement among Southern American countries, visitors have to apply from each nation's embassy individually to visit multiple countries at a time, and during the busy season around Chinese New Year, tourists have to plan their whole trip beforehand and submit requisite materials three months before their actual departure date.

However, the situation is slowly improving thanks to the growing enthusiasm of government officials and private enterprises to strengthen collaboration.

Other Latin American countries also started to carry out favorable policies to compete for the attention of Chinese tourists, who are known for their generous spending habits.

Cheng Yilun contributed to this story.