Do more to lure Chinese tourists, Xu Jing urges Caribbean countries
Xu Jing, the regional director for Asia and the Pacific at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said Caribbean countries can tap into the billions of dollars spent by Chinese travelers annually, but urged them to change their strategy to lure his compatriots to the region.
According to Jing, more than 135 million Chinese tourists spent more than US$261 billion to travel across the world, with 2.1 million favouring the coast of the United States.
"To get the Chinese market," he noted, "it is not about the tweets or the Trip Advisor. More than anything else, it will be about the Chinese way of viewing the digital platforms such as 'We Chat'. In China, We Chat is not only social media, it is our digital wallet for financial transactions when we travel abroad."
Xu Jing continued, "Many Chinese tourists who travel to America can be lured to the Caribbean if you increase travel facilitation. To make an impact, you need to offer more Chinese-friendly services.
"The region also needs amenities such as Chinese language services and free Wi-Fi; integrating elements of Chinese culture and special conveniences, such as slippers, tea kettles, Chinese tea, and accepting payment services of Chinese companies. These adjustments will make the Chinese feel more welcomed and can increase the demand for more tourists from China in the future."
Jing was among a raft of high profile presenters at the the UNWTO Global Conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James. The event is hosted by the UNWTO, Government of Jamaica, World Bank Group and the Inter-America Development Bank.
UNIQUE SELLING POINT
Jing is also of the view that the Caribbean culture offers a unique selling point to the Chinese market which could be a major boost for the cruise ship sector.
"In the Caribbean, apart from the added value of the beach and the sun, the cruise element will also make the experience different from other destinations. Added to that, if you can put the music, the food, the Blue Mountain Coffee components into the Chinese product, the region should do well," he added.
Last year, just under 50,000 Chinese visited the Caribbean, with approximately 40,000 going to Cuba, while Jamaica was second with just under 4,000 visitors.
Cuba's advantage was having direct flights from China and no visa restrictions. Jing said, "Jamaica also has no visa restrictions, but no one knows that. Therefore, more work is needed when it comes to publicity."
Jing argued that islands in the Indian Ocean were able to revive their tourist market after the 2004 tsunami and believed this success could be replicated in the region.
"After the tsunami, the island nation of the Maldives started to look at Asia as a destination to attract visitors from other than Europe. They decided that apart from the tourists from Germany, Italy and Britain, they wanted more persons from other regions. Today, in the Maldives and the Seychelles, they are flooded with Chinese travelers. If the Maldives was able to do this, why not the Caribbean?"