Feature: Argentina gears up to welcome Chinese visitors
BUENOS AIRES, July 14 (Xinhua) -- If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then maybe the same applies to China's growing number of globetrotters.
Argentina is banking on the old adage to attract more Chinese tourism, and the strategy is part of "Hilton Huanying" program that derives from the Chinese word for "welcome."
The program is backed by research that revealed the preferences of today's Chinese travelers, including starting the day with a traditional breakfast featuring a range of rice congee, steamed buns, shrimp dumplings and hard-boiled eggs, among others.
The program is an initiative already in place at more than 150 Hilton hotels around the world, but relatively new to the property in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires, the first Latin American city to offer it.
"We are very proud to be part of the Hilton Huanying program here in Buenos Aires," director of sales and marketing at Hilton Buenos Aires, Mariano Cannello, told Xinhua.
"We see it as a great opportunity to welcome Chinese travelers with the standards of personalized service we know they expect and enjoy," Cannello added.
According to the hotel, after the program was launched, bookings by Chinese tourists rose 160 percent per night compared to last year, with an average stay by Chinese tourists of 2.15 nights.
Gonzalo Tordini, head of educational affairs at the Latin American Center on Chinese Political and Economic Studies, said Argentina is keen to tap into China's booming outbound tourism to help its flagging domestic economy.
"Tourists generate benefits for the countries they visit, being an important source of services' exports," said Tordini.
"In 2018, 150 million Chinese travelled abroad as a result of the spectacular rise of the middle class. They seek to learn about other cultures, contemplate new landscapes and have enriching experiences," Tordini added.
Buenos Aires is an attractive destination for the Chinese traveler given its culture, cuisine and passion for football. But the country offers a wide variety of sights, such as Patagonia to the south, a region characterized by the beauty of its glaciers, lakes and mountains.
"Argentina has great potential for receiving Chinese tourists. Patagonia, in particular, offers conditions that may be of great interest to Chinese visitors," said Tordini, whose center signed a cooperation agreement with Ente Patagonia Argentina last year to promote Chinese tourism.
"With impressive landscapes, excellent infrastructure, diverse adventure activities and a hospitable population, Patagonia expects to attract travelers from literally the other side of the world," said Tordini.
Argentina is also taking other steps to boost tourism from China, including easing the visa application process and working to improve air connectivity.
According to data from the Argentine Ministry of Tourism, between 2011 and 2017 the arrivals of Chinese tourists to Argentina increased steadily, reaching around 60,000 tourists.
In 2017, 10-year visas were issued to Chinese citizens traveling to Argentina for tourism or business purposes.
In August 2018, Chile and Argentina announced an agreement for the reciprocal recognition of visas for Chinese tourists starting January 2019.
"The work that is being done to facilitate visas and improve air connectivity between the two countries will surely further support this effort," said Tordini.