A Chinese airline will begin offering direct flights between China and Cuba with the hope that soon will be a “sea of Chinese tourists” travelling to Cuba.
Cuba has already been working hard to attract some of the 100 million Chinese tourists who take overseas trips each year. Grupo Gaviota, the commercial arm of the Cuban military, started a campaign to ready 55 hotels and expands the country’s largest marina, the Gaviota Varadero Marina, to attract the Chinese. Cuban tourism authorities say they plan to have at least 85,000 hotel rooms available for tourists by 2020. Grupo Gaviota’s jazzy promotional video, subtitled in Chinese, shows mainlanders lounging in five-star hotels, sailing on yachts, and enjoying Chinese food.
Cuba has long been an export destination for low-cost Chinese goods, but getting tourists there has been a harder sell. Top tourist destinations for the Chinese are usually in Europe, the United States, or elsewhere in Asia. Last year, only 28,000 mainland tourists visited Cuba.
But as Cuba’s tourism sector opens up, more Chinese companies and travel operators are turning their attention to the island nation. In May, a Chinese company, Beijing Enterprise, said it planned to build a golf course there, as well as condominiums. That would bring Cuba’s total number of 18-hole golf courses up to two. Already, over 13 resort projects worth over $460 million in Chinese investment are underway, the official news agency Xinhua said this week.
If thousands of free-spending Chinese tourists begin to show up, the country’s burgeoning tourism sector could get a sizable boost.