By the Caribbean Journal staff
The thought of Chinese tourists heading to the Caribbean not too long ago seemed far-fetched; today, China’s market is a potential gold mine as a source for regional tourism.
“Barely one decade ago, few would have predicted the likelihood that Chinese tourists could even dream of making it to the paradise-like destinations in this part of the world, nor that the Caribbean would so much as find itself in much need of China as a tourism market,” said Wei Qiang, China’s Ambassador to Barbados.
Wei was speaking at a seminar called “Emerging China: Options, Opportunities and Strategies,” hosted by the Barbadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Many believe China could provide a “completely new type of tourist” for Barbados and the Caribbean, with the “days of preferential markets” being over, according to former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, who is Barbados’ Ambassador to China.
“I advocate a special focus on the markets of China and East Asia which are the most promising and resilient in the world trade today, and into the foreseeable future,” Sandiford said.
Chinese tourists typically travel in large groups, of 30 to 40 people, with an average stay of around 13 to 15 days, according to Dr Sherma Roberts, lecturer in tourism at the University of the West Indies and Chairperson of the Tourism Advisory Council.
“I think that is quite an astounding figure,” she said. “That is quite a lot of money that can filter through our economy.”
Barbados received Approved Destination Status from China in 2004.
China has been making large moves in the Caribbean, part of a wave of Caribbean investment from nations like Japan, Taiwan, and, more recently, South Korea.