As China has become Cuba's leading trade partner, the country has also become a key developer of tourism in the once isolated Caribbean island nation. With investments exceeding 700 million USD and increasing presence of Chinese goods and know-how, China has become the key to promoting Cuba's tourism industry. "Everyday we want to use more Chinese products and technologies in the tourism sector," said Jose Daniel Alonso, director of development and investment at Cuba's tourism ministry.
The potential for growth and capability to generate much-needed foreign revenue makes the development of tourism one of the top priorities. Local authorities are seeking reliable investors to enhance resorts' infrastructure as well as expand on existing hotel capacity and explore additional recreational options. The growth of the tourism industry and influence of the Chinese market can be seen at the local car rental agencies. Catering to Asian visitors, Chinese car brands of GAC Motor, Geely, BYD, BAIC and Maxus represent 65 percent of the fleet. Even entire fleets of buses of all dimensions are supplied by Yutong and King Long Chinese companies.
"In addition to the buses and rental vehicles, we have bought air conditioners for rooms in many hotels. We are also assessing other goods for the Cuban hotel industry." However, cooperation in tourism between the two countries is nothing new. Companies from both countries operate the Grand Kempinski Hotel in Shanghai. "This same Chinese company will build a luxury hotel at Havana's Marina Hemingway to the west of the Cuban capital, and the first steps are being taken to start," added Alonso. The project calls for an investment of more than 200 million dollars. 2017 saw a 17 percent increase in the number of Chinese visitors to the island haven, close to 40,000 arrivals the year before. Alonso also said "we must reach the goal of having some 60,000 Chinese tourists this year."