Interview: El Salvador hones strategy to woo Chinese tourists

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-03 11:40:12|Editor: Liangyu
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SAN SALVADOR, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- El Salvador is working on a strategy to lure Chinese tourists to its blend of beaches, colonial towns, Mayan pyramids and volcanoes, according to Tourism Minister Jose Napoleon Duarte.

Newly-established diplomatic ties between the two countries are poised to strengthen exchanges in a range of areas, from trade and technology to tourism, Duarte told Chinese media outlets.

The minister said he recently spoke with Chinese companies about different topics, proposals and routes "we can pursue on the road to commercializing our tourist packages" to Chinese consumers.

As part of that effort, a Salvadoran delegation will be traveling to China to explore opportunities for cooperation in this field, and network with China's leading tourism operators to find out what Chinese tourists want when traveling abroad.

Bridging the language barrier is a priority, he said.

"I'm requesting they send me a team of Chinese (teachers) so we can put together a training program for tour guides that already speak English and Spanish ... so they can learn Mandarin," said Duarte.

El Salvador wants to stand out from other Latin American destinations by promoting its unique sights, including a landscape dotted with volcanoes featuring mountaintop villages and wildlife.

"For us, it's very attractive to think the Chinese market is going to really like the combination of volcanoes with high and low temperatures, along with colorful volcanic lakes," surrounded by hotels, restaurants and other tourism infrastructure, said Duarte.

The ministry has a five-year plan to boost the number of Chinese visitors from today's nearly 3,500 to 50,000 by 2023, by launching a marketing campaign, boosting air connections and calling on the private sector to join efforts.

Given the distances Chinese travelers have to fly, the strategy will promote El Salvador as part of a larger route that includes its Central American neighbors and Mexico to the north.

"A long-distance trip ... has to be a trip that's worth the while, and the Chinese have no problem with that. They can travel for more than 15 days and up to a month," said Duarte.

A record 2.2 million foreign travelers chose to visit El Salvador in 2017, heading to its Pacific shores, Mayan ruins, and indigenous towns, a 9.5-percent increase over the year before.