Updated: 2013-06-04 08:16
President Xi Jinping's state visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico will help countries in the Caribbean region draw Chinese tourists, yet those countries still need to make more of an effort to tap the Chinese market, tourism insiders said.
"Each year, we receive fewer than 100 calls asking for itineraries to Caribbean countries, and less than 20 groups have taken trips to these nations in the past three years," said Cong Ling, manager of the American Department of China Travel Service's Beijing branch, adding that even the biggest groups have fewer than 20 members.
"Most Chinese people have limited knowledge about Caribbean countries. In addition, these countries didn't pay enough attention in the past to promoting their tourism in China. The cost for a trip to Caribbean countries is also comparatively higher than those for other routes," she said.
These factors have led to a relatively sluggish Chinese market for tourism for countries in the Caribbean region, Cong said.
"But I am convinced that President Xi's visits to these countries will heighten Chinese people's interest in knowing more about Caribbean countries, thus indirectly boosting the tourism markets there," Cong said.
Xi began the visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico on Friday. It is his second formal visit to foreign countries since he became president in March.
Cong said her company usually organizes Caribbean tour groups for business people and helps fully independent travelers arrange their transportation and accommodation.
Tourism authorities and businesses from Caribbean countries have been striving to attract Chinese tourists.
David Najera Rivas, Mexican consul-general in Guangzhou, told China News Service in an earlier report that Mexico expects a 30 percent increase in the number of Chinese tourists this year.
Mexico's Secretariat of Tourism, the governmental body in charge of the nation's tourism promotion and development, has decided that Chinese tourists in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong will be its key targets and aimed to promote itineraries for newlyweds, businesspeople and those who seek a luxurious journey, he said.
Najera said Mexican tourism departments will start an examination for guides who want to receive Chinese tourists in Mexico. Applicants to the exam must have a guide's certificate issued by the local government and will attend lectures on China's tradition, history, culture and tourism industry.
Mexico has witnessed a remarkable surge in Chinese tourists over the past three years, he said.
"Mexico has a long history and boasts 31 world heritage sites as well as more than 30,000 archaeological sites. I believe there must be something that can impress Chinese tourists - either the beautiful beaches or delicate food," Najera said, adding that Mexican tourism businesses are willing to strengthen cooperation with their Chinese counterparts and launch more marketing events to attract Chinese tourists.
Besides Mexico, Cuba and Ecuador are also aggressively promoting their tourist attractions.
"The Ecuadorian tourism authority has contacted us and expressed their interest in cooperating," Cong said. "Cuba now offers Chinese tourists visa on arrival. Costa Rica, as far as I know, also plans to grant visa-free access to Chinese visitors who have a US visa."
However, Zhang Yi, a group guide at Beijing Peace International Travel Agency, said that countries in the Caribbean region need to do more to tap the Chinese market.