News report | | 07/05/2024 | ±2 minutes reading time

Cuba and China have had a close relationship for many decades. This is one of the reasons why the Cuban government adapts its visa policy towards China. From May onwards, travellers from China may travel to the Caribbean island without having to apply for a visa. This change is expected to increase the amount of Chinese tourists in Cuba, which will give a boost to the local economy.

Cuba-China relations

The close relationship between Cuba and China goes back to the 1960s, when Cuba recognised the People’s Republic of China as one of the first countries in the world. Since then, the two countries have worked together closely on multiple areas, especially in terms of trade. China has become an increasingly important trading partner of Cuba. Also, China has invested heavily in different sectors in Cuba, ranging from infrastructure to health care.

This close cooperation includes the easing of visa policies on both sides. In 2021, the countries signed a contract for reciprocal visa waivers. Since then, Cubans and Chinese holders of diplomatic and official passports may travel to the other country without needing to hold a visa. At the same time, the countries agreed to improve their cooperation in the area of tourism. The share of tourists of Chinese nationality had grown steadily in the years before, and thus, Chinese tourists have become more important for the Cuban economy

Tourism in Cuba after the pandemic

Just like most other countries in the world, Cuba introduced strict travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, international tourism came to a near stand-still. Even after the pandemic, tourism to Cuba took a long time to recover. This was partly due to new sanctions that were imposed by US-president Trump. These sanctions have made it almost impossible for tourists from the USA to travel to Cuba.

The Cuban government has put significant effort into attracting more tourists from other countries. For example, the government commissioned dozens of new hotels to be built that could accommodate more tourists. However, the country suffers from different issues. There are fuel shortages and the US embargo makes it difficult for Cuba to trade with most Western countries. Because of this, the Cuban government focuses on tourists from other countries, such as Russia and China.

The Cuban visa card

The Cuban visa may be another obstacle for the further growth of international tourism. In contrast to many other countries, Cuba does not have an e-visa, but a traditional paper visa. This paper visa is also called a tourist card or visa card and can be applied for online for £44.95 per piece. The visa is delivered by post.

The Cuba visa consists of two parts. You should fill in your personal information twice. Upon arrival in Cuba, the immigration services tear off one half of the visa, and you must hand in the other half once you leave the country.

Visa-free travel for Chinese citizens

On 4 May 2024, Juan Carlos García, the Cuban Minister of Tourism, announced that from May 2024 onwards, Chinese citizens will not need a visa any more to be allowed to enter Cuba. To stimulate tourism from China even more, direct flights between Cuba and China will be offered from 17 May onwards. With these measures, the Cuban government hopes to welcome at least 3.5 million Chinese tourists in 2024.

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