Chinese Tour Operator Seeks to Boost Tourism to Cuba
Chinese tourists allocate a good part of their budget to shopping, and prefer places with internet connections and electronic payment systems
HAVANA TIMES – The rapprochement between Cuba and China takes a new step with the signing of an agreement, this Wednesday, between Havanatur and the Chinese tour operator Tumei International Travel, which will promote the Island as a “reliable and safe destination” for travelers of the Asian giant.
According to the official press, Rodrigo Wen, the deputy general manager of Tumei, said during the signing of the agreement in Havana that Cuba is “a priority destination” and is among the “preferences” of the customers of his company, which is based in Hong Kong.
This week, a delegation from the agency toured Havana, Varadero, Cienfuegos and Trinidad as possible destinations for the arrival of Chinese tourists. The first deputy minister of Tourism in Cuba, María del Carmen Orellana, said that the city of Baracoa, in Guantánamo, is more in line with the needs of the Chinese market with the renovations of hotels after the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, she assured that the Cuban side has prepared and studied the characteristics and demands of Chinese travelers to welcome them “with the best service.”
More than sun and beach, tourists from the Asian giant usually travel in groups and are interested in the cultural heritage of the countries they visit, such as museums and galleries. In addition, they allocate a good part of their budget to shopping and prefer places with Internet connections and electronic payment systems.
For Orellana, the “conditions are created for Chinese citizens to feel that Cuba is their second homeland during their stay,” while Tumei’s spokesman pointed out that his company had understood the “concept of a single Cuba.” The signing of the agreement was also attended by Alberto Blanco, director of Asia and Oceania of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chou Quan, economic adviser of the Chinese Embassy in Havana, who “agreed” on the “excellent state” of relations between the two countries, according to statements repeated in the official press.
After almost three years of border closures, China put an end to its “zero covid” policy in January, by allowing travelers to enter its country without a mandatory quarantine. According to an interview given in February to the Prensa Latina agency, the deputy manager of Tumei said that Cuba is among the 20 countries approved by the Chinese government for the resumption of group tourism. “So there is no time to lose and we must act now. We hope to be able to see some results within this year,” he said.
The tentacles of the Chinese Government on the Island extend from small industries, such as footwear, to key areas of economic activity such as the generation of renewable energy and the modernization of the official media. China was among the countries that Miguel Díaz-Canel visited during a tour in November last year in search of funding and new cooperation, in which his counterpart Xi Jinping pledged to deliver 100 million dollars as part of an “emergency donation.”
Deputy Minister Orellana also said that tourism “is beginning to take its first steps to recover” after the crash generated by the pandemic.
However, official data confirm that tourism is still far from recovering its pre-pandemic levels. Between January and February 2023, 489,000 tourists arrived on the Island, barely half (51%) compared to the same period in 2019.
Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba