Cuba opens visa-free doors to Chinese tourists as direct flights resume

Cuba is allowing Chinese tourists to visit without a visa. Photo: Shutterstock

Chinese passport holders will be able to enter Cuba without a visa this month as direct flights resume between the two countries.

Cuban Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia announced the visa-free policy at the Cuban International Tourism Fair held in the seaside resort of Cayo Coco island on the weekend, saying China would also be the event’s “guest of honour” next year.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Garcia as saying the policy would come into effect this month and direct flights between China and Cuba would resume on May 17, after being suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, searches for hotels in Cuba and flights to the country on online travel agency Ctrip soared after the announcement, according to Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper.

“With this visa exemption and the recent opening or resumption of direct flights from China to Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, and other Latin American destinations, the time and cost for tourists are expected to significantly decrease,” The Paper quoted Qin as saying.

China is Cuba’s largest trade partner, with bilateral trade amounting to US$862 million last year.

The announcement came at the end of China’s five-day “golden week” Labour Day break, which started on May 1.

CCTV reported that more people were heading overseas for the holiday, with the number of booking for international flights on May 1 20 per cent higher than the same time in 2019 before the pandemic.
Europe and the Middle East were among the favoured destinations, according to state broadcaster, but tickets were in particularly high demand for countries with visa-free schemes with China, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Georgia and Kazakhstan, it said.
Over the past six months, China has struck several mutual visa-free deals with other countries to encourage tourism and increase exchanges.
But ForwardKeys china market analyst Nancy Dai said other factors “like safety concerns and flight connectivity also play a crucial role” when booking a holiday destination.