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Beijing-Havana direct flight helps boost tourism: Chinese Ambassador to Cuba

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-12-29 10:42

HAVANA - Chinese Ambassador to Cuba Zhang Tuo on Monday said the launch of a direct Beijing-Havana flight is expected to boost China-Cuba ties in several areas, especially tourism.

The inaugural plane, operated by Air China, one of major Chinese airlines, landed at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba's capital, at 9:15 pm local time Sunday (0115 GMT Monday) after some 19 and a half hours of flight, with a technical stop in Montreal, Canada.

Previously, flights between the two countries would have to go via Spain, Germany, France or Mexico, making it a longer journey.

Among the 211 passengers who disembarked from the Boeing 777-300er Sunday night was the vice president of Air China, Wang Yinxiang, who was among guests to celebrate the opening of the new air route and 55 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Ambassador Zhang said that China is the world's leading provider of tourists, and the opening of the new air route caters to the many Chinese who want to visit the Caribbean island nation. Zhang said Cuba is now in a position to make the most of that market.

Between January and November of this year, 25,777 Chinese travelers visited Cuba, a 16.5 percent increase over the same period the year before, according to figures from the Cuba's government statistics agency (ONEI).

The president of Cuba's Civil Aviation Institute, Alfredo Cordero, said Sunday night that the new air connection will promote interchange between peoples of the two countries, as well as tourism.

The thrice-weekly flight (Tuesday, Friday, Sunday) has a capacity to seat at least 300 passengers a time, meaning some 3,500 Chinese citizens could potentially travel to Cuba each month, said Cordero.

Tourism is Cuba's second largest source of hard currency earnings, after medical exports, bringing in some $2 billion a year. The national tourism industry offers 61,000 hotel rooms distributed among 335 hotels, of which, 65 percent are four- and five-star ones.

Up to November, some 3.1 million international travelers visited Cuba, 17.6 percent more than the same period the year before, according to Cuba's Tourism Ministry.

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