HAVANA (Xinhua) – Cuba plans to attract more Chinese visitors in 2019 in light of the growing number of Chinese overseas tourists.
“China currently ranks 14th as a tourism market for Cuba, as last year approximately 46,000 Chinese visitors came to our country, representing a 10-percent increase over 2017,” Michel Bernal, director of the development sector at the Tourism Ministry (Mintur), told Xinhua.
It plans to step up promotional campaigns in China about the Caribbean island’s varied destinations.
Mr Bernal said the majority of Chinese travellers to Cuba arrive from nearby countries and not through the weekly Air China flights connecting Havana and Beijing with a stopover in Montreal, Canada.
The route inaugurated at the end of 2015 has seen low passenger rates, and Cuba wants to tackle the “challenge” of filling those empty airline seats, Mr Bernal said.
“We have created a working group at Mintur to improve flight schedules and passenger occupancy after talk with travel agencies and tour operators, and promote Cuba as the most important destination in the Caribbean,” he said, adding Cuba will also participate in relevant tourism fairs in China in 2019.
“We currently have tour guides who speak Chinese, which is very important, and at several hotels in Havana, managers that work directly with tour operators who speak Mandarin,” said Mr Bernal.
Official figures show Chinese companies are among the leading foreign partners in Cuba’s tourism sector, with investments exceeding US$700 million.
Cuba had a record 4.75 million international visitors in 2018 and this year it hopes to attract 5.1 million tourists, which will represent a 7 percent growth.
Tourism,which is the island’s second biggest source of foreign revenue is seen as one of the main driving forces of Cuba’s economic development.