With lush tropical beaches and a thriving domestic tourism industry, China’s southernmost province of Hainan has been referred to as the “Hawaii of China” for years. The marketing team in charge of promoting the destination to tourists seems to be taking that moniker a bit too literally these days by adopting (or blatantly ripping off) several of Hawaii’s own promotional schemes.
Hawaiian-print shirts, leis, and a special greeting with hand signal are all part of Hainan’s marketing plan. Nelson Alcantara, the editor in chief of travel industry news site eTurboNews, describes the destination’s efforts to copy Hawaii as “so blatantly obvious” that it is “almost embarrassing to see.” He states that at a recent travel summit in Hainan, not only were all the participants wearing Hawaiian floral shirts, but Hainan has also adopted its own version of “aloha.” The word “yanoda,” which is also the name of the Yanoda Rainforest near Sanya, serves as a greeting message for visitors. Hainan has also adopted its own version of Hawaii’s “hang ten” hand symbol, which is presented in a floral display at a tourist entrance at the rainforest to remind people to use it.
According to Alcantara, Hainan hotels have also tried to adopt the practice of giving out “leis” to guests—often with comical results:
I’m using the term loosely because in Hawaii, it is widely known that visitors are greeted with a floral necklace known as “leis.” In Hainan, I found that they did the same thing, but each property took the liberty of creating a “necklace” of their own. Each property was different. The most ineffective of all during my visit was Narada Hot-spring Resort’s three-betel nut necklace. Whoever thought that greeting guests with a necklace made of three betel nuts tied by a string should really consider one thing: comfort. Nobody in their right mind wants three miniature coconuts hanging on their neck. They’re heavy and odd-looking.
The most blatant Hawaii rip-off is the logo for Hainan’s tourism board. See if you can spot the similarities with Hawaii’s:
A visit to Hawaii’s official tourism website shows that it has wisened up to Hainan’s imitation—the site is now branded as “The Hawaiian Islands” with a brand new logo. Hawaii has been making its own efforts to attract Chinese tourists, which have been visiting in growing numbers thanks to its convenient Pacific Rim location and luxury shopping opportunities.