Tar­geted tours to lure more vis­i­tors

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By YANG FEIYUE yangfeiyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Travel authorities in Cuba have de­signed a se­ries of tours that take in his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural sites and nat­u­ral scenery to at­tract more Chi­nese vis­i­tors to the is­land.

More than 28,000 Chi­nese trav­eled to the coun­try last year, mak­ing up only a small pro­por­tion of the to­tal 3 mil­lion for­eign vis­i­tors, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal tourism data.

Ta­nia Ve­lazquez Lopez, the for­mer con­sul-gen­eral to China, has said her na­tion is de­sign­ing more tour pack­ages that will ap­peal to Chi­nese tourists, and aims to of­fer at least 85,000 ho­tel rooms by 2020.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies are shift­ing their fo­cus to Cuba to cash in on the is­land’s po­ten­tial tourism boom.

Bei­jing En­ter­prises Group Co signed a deal in­May 2015 to build a golf re­sort, while 13 other leisure tourism projects worth a com­bined $460 mil­lion are un­der­way.

Its rich col­lec­tion of his­tor­i­cal build­ings, beaches and golf cour­ses have al­ready en­deared the is­land na­tion to Chi­nese vis­i­tors.

“We’ve seen a steady num­ber of Chi­nese tourists to Cuba in re­cent years,” said Li Men­gran of Bei­jing Utour In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice Co. “We ex­pect the num­ber to dou­ble or triple in the next fewyears.”

How­ever, he said the is­land re­mains a rel­a­tively un­known des­ti­na­tion among the Chi­nese, with vis­i­tors now mostly vet­eran trav­el­ers who have been to the United States and Europe and know some­thing about Cuba’s his­tory.

Last year, roughly 100 Chi­nese booked trips through Utour. “They mostly go to sight­see,” Li said. “Plus, lo­cal spe­cial­ties such as cigars and rum are pop­u­lar.”

Utour of­fers an 11-day lux­ury

We ex­pect the num­ber (of Chi­nese tourists) to dou­ble or triple in the next few years.” Li Men­gran of Bei­jing Utour In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice Co 28,000 tourists trav­eled from China to Cuba in 2015

tour dur­ing the an­nual Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day that costs 21,800 yuan ($3,260) per per­son.

Air China launched flights be­tween Bei­jing and Ha­vana — via Mon­treal in Canada— in De­cem­ber.

Tan Hao, who spent eight days trav­el­ing in Cuba in June last year, said he would con­sider a sec­ond trip now get­ting there is eas­ier.

“I’ve al­ways been cu­ri­ous about the coun­try, so I de­cided to see it on my own,” said the 34-year-old from Bei­jing, who vis­ited Ha­vana and Va­radero.

“I’ve been to many beaches, in­clud­ing those in Bali, the Aegean Sea and Thai­land, but the one in Va­radero is some­thing else,” he said, re­mark­ing on its clear-blue sea and white sand.

He said he was also im­pressed by the Euro­peanstyle build­ings in Ha­vana’s old town, which fea­ture ar­cades, wrought-iron gates and court­yards.

“There are many great churches, cas­tles and watch­tow­ers in good con­di­tion, as well as Ernest Hem­ing­way’s for­mer res­i­dence,” he added.

LIU BIN / XIN­HUA

Bei­jing tourism of­fi­cials un­veil a vin­tage car at an event on Sept 9 to pro­mote the city to Cuban vis­i­tors.

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