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31 Mar 2023
Christian K. Caruzo

NextImg:Cash-Strapped Cuba Cuts Deal to Attract More Chinese Tourists

The Communist Party of Cuba signed a deal this week with a Chinese tour agency to facilitate travel from the fellow dictatorship to the island nation and attempt to revive the floundering tourism industry in Cuba that its repressive military is highly dependent on for profits.

The state-owned Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN) reported on Wednesday that representatives from the Castro regime’s Havanatur tourism agency and China’s Tumei International Travel tour operator signed a memorandum of understanding in Havana to boost the arrival of Chinese tourists to Cuba to enjoy the island as a “reliable and safe destination.”

Cuba is included in the list of 20 countries that China has allowed to resume outbound group travels to as of February. Cuba and Argentina are the only two countries in the Americas that were included in the list. China almost entirely shut down outbound travel in the aftermath of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic spreading to nearly every nation on the planet.

The Castro regime exerts complete control of the nation’s tourism industry through a handful of companies such as Havanatur and the Gaviota Tourism group, which is owned and operated by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces’ Business Management Group.

The communist regime heavily invests in maintaining luxury hotels and vacation destinations throughout the island, as they are a crucial source of income for the regime — and especially its military — only rivaled by the Cuban slave doctor trade.

The regime’s investment in its tourist infrastructure and services is done at the expense of the country’s civilian infrastructure. As a result, the communist regime forces Cuban citizens to live in derelict and crumbling buildings that constantly pose a severe risk to their lives.

Accidents involving the crumbling buildings, which are commonplace outside of Cuba’s tourist destinations, continuously cause accidents that leave Cuban citizens either injured or dead. The regime’s lack of investment in other sectors of Cuba’s infrastructure has left the nation facing constant and severe rolling power blackouts, a crumbling healthcare system, and severe food shortages.

Until 2008, the communist Castro regime banned citizens from staying in any of the country’s hotels, exclusively reserving the locales for foreign tourists and their money — although the ban has long since been lifted, Cuban citizens do not get to enjoy any of the luxury hotels and tourist attractions, as they’re far out of reach after being thrown into extreme poverty as a result of more than six decades of communism.

The Castro regime’s tourism revenue, which was already declining by 2019, was severely disrupted as a result of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. Cuban tourism minister Juan Carlos García Granda said in January that the regime aspires to receive around 3.5 million tourists throughout 2023. The amount, while higher than the 1.7 million tourists that traveled to Cuba in 2022, is lower than the 4 million tourists that, according to the communist regime, traveled to Cuba in 2018 and 2019.

During the memorandum signing ceremony in Havana this week, the vice general manager of China’s Tumei tourist operator Rodrigo Wen said that Cuba is a “priority destination” for the operator’s agenda.

“We understood the concept of Cuba Única [Unique Cuba],” Wen said after having visited some of Cuba’s regime-controlled tourist destinations.

Unique Cuba is a campaign launched by the Castro regime in 2022 that sought to promote tourism to the island-nation. The campaign was presented in October in Shanghai, seeking to entice prospective Chinese tourists by showing Cuba’s tourist destinations and export products.

Wen added that the Chinese representatives were “happy” to have arrived at hotels that the Castro regime remodeled during the coronavirus pandemic, noting that they had become properties “better adapted” to the needs of the Chinese market.

María del Carmen Orellana, the Castro regime’s first deputy minister of tourism, expressed to the Chinese Tumei tourist operators during the signing ceremony that the regime was “very pleased” with the resuming of foreign travel by Chinese citizens and the inclusion of Cuba in the list of approved countries. Del Carmen asserted that the regime has been “preparing” and “studying” the demands of the Asian market to welcome Chinese visitors with their best disposition.

Cuba had previously attempted to court Chinese tourism shortly before the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 after the Chinese online travel company Ctrip reached an agreement with the Castro regime to include Cuba among its promoted tourist destinations.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.