Cuba’s Military on the Hunt for Chinese Tourism

Fabian Flores  (Café Fuerte)

Chinese tourists in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — The Grupo Gaviota, one of the pillars of the commercial chain operated by Cuba’s Armed Forces, has launched an aggressive campaign to attract Chinese tourists to Cuba.

The Cuban government is laying its bets on the mid-term potential of the Chinese tourism market, today the top source country (reporting 100 million travelers every year)

The number of Chinese tourists that travel to the island is infinitesimal when compared to other destinations (a mere 22,218 Chinese travelled to Cuba last year), despite the 100 % growth experienced since 2008. China ranks 15th among the island’s tourism source countries.

Courting the Chinese

According to a report issue by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), a delegation of the Grupo Gaviota company headed by general manager Ileana Pilar Martinez traveled to China at the beginning of September and held a meeting at the Cuban embassy with the three agencies that were the main sources of Chinese tourism to the island in 2013.

Martiez invited the Chinese companies to assess the possibility of joint ventures in the tourism sector, from the building of hotels to the creation of golf courses.

The visit to China by Gaviota representatives coincided with the launching of a six-minute promotional video (below), with Chinese subtitles, about Cuba’s touristic charms.

By the close of the year, the Grupo Gaviota S.A. will operate 55 hotels, 12 of them in the Varadero beach area, for a total of 29,400 rooms. The company is also planning the development of marinas and a range of other tourist facilities.

Chinese Food

The expansion of the Gaviota Varadero Marina, expected to become Cuba’s largest and most modern facility of its kind (with a mooring capacity of 1,200 vessels), will be completed next year.

The first Cuba-China forum was held in Havana last year. It was aimed at the promotion of Cuban products that could contribute to an increase in Chinese tourism.

At the forum, there was talk of raising the number of Chinese visitors to the island to 100,000 a year. The Chinese ambassador in Havana, Zhang Tuo, went as far as predicting “a sea of Chinese tourists for the near future.

Some of the issues to be addressed in order to encourage more visits to Cuba from China are the scarce availability of Chinese food on the island, the training of tourist guides who speak Mandarin and the search for better flight connections between the two countries.

Gaviota video promoting Chinese tourism in Cuba:

23 thoughts on “Cuba’s Military on the Hunt for Chinese Tourism

  • September 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    The money that these tourists will bring will help the economy of Cuba.

  • September 20, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    You forgot to say that El Morro and La Cbana were built by Spain 500 years ago. The only vigor that existed before 1959, as my mother’s boss used to tell me was prostitution, drugs and extreme porn show. I guess that was vigorous? I am sorry that because Cuba needs to use tourism to overcome the effects of the blockade prostitution and drug use has increased, but not at the level of 1959. I don’t think they have the porn shows yet, those are in Miami.

  • September 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Because many Cubans admire the US and envy those from the free world who are able to afford the luxury of cruise ships. The difference between the Cuba that you describe as a tourist and that I describe as one whose home is there in a large town where there are no tourists, is that you see what the regime wants you to see, I see reality.
    Incidentally, are the goats still eating the grass on the roof of that store on the way to Port Alberni? I as a tourist took a photograph of them many years ago.

  • September 20, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Over the past 21 years I have visited cuba 85 and most visits were to A.I. resorts. Wwhen I was at the Melia Marina Varadero I was shocked to see 23 pictures of American owned cruise ships in the buffet. ? Why does this resort promote U.S. cruise ship tourism which is in direct competion with Cuba’s land based tourism ? I am 100 % sure those U.S. cruise ships do not have pictures of Cuban resorts on their walls.
    Gordon Robinson Port Alberni B.C. Canada
    [email protected]

  • September 20, 2014 at 12:13 am

    In 2012, Las Vegas received more than 269,000 Chinese tourists of the more than 1.2 million Chinese who visited the entire US that year. New York City was the #1 destination in the US with more than 500,000 Chinese visitors. France is the #1 visited country by Chinese tourists year after year. What do these destinations all have in common? Chinese tourists are big spenders and love to buy western items that are heavily taxed in China. It is not likely that a poor socialist country like Cuba will attract large numbers of Chinese tourists. The Chinese, in general, hate the sun and tend to stay in their travel groups. Cuba as a tourist destination lends itself to sun-seekers and people who like to walk around on their own to take in the sights. This post sounds like another Castro pipe dream.

  • September 19, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    The promotional video is very good with some excellent shots of Old Havana and Trinidad. Both constructed long prior to the dictatorship of the Castro family regime and reflecting the vigour that once existed in Cuba. Both locations have been restored by financing from UNESCO the largest contributor being the US and with tiny Israel contribuiting about 4%. There is an aerial shot of the Chinese Yutong bus operated by Gaviota SA crossing the wonderful bridge at the beginning of the Province of Matanzas. Both it and the tunnel leading to El Morro in Havana were constructed during the Batista presidency.

  • September 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    This expenditure in a country where there is a housing deficit of over 600,000 homes. But, if 100,000 visiting Chinese per year are to bring their yachts with them – who knows? With a per capita GDP of $4,430, the number of Chinese able to afford to travel is limited – those that are, are those that have adopted capitalism or work for the communist government.

  • September 19, 2014 at 11:53 am

    I was at the Melia Marina Varadero in January and it is massive – construction cost over $ 600 million

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