Hainan Island Promoting Eco-Tourism, Luxury Resorts
Though the jury’s still out whether the tourism overdrive we’ve seen on China’s southernmost province, Hainan Island, will ultimately turn the resort-filled destination into “China’s Riviera” or its Orlando, officials are confident that culture as well as luxury are the key to attracting more tourists. Over the past several years, Hainan tourism authorities have been on a charm offensive throughout China, promoting everything from duty-free shopping to the island’s beaches and high-end resorts.
Currently, according to the Hainan Tourist Bureau, Hainan is now home to 209 starred hotels, among them 22 five-star resorts and 20 at “five-star standards” but not yet ranked. At the moment, plans have already been drawn up for another 40 premium hotels, with the majority expected to break ground in Sanya, the provincial capital.
Sanya, Hainan’s marquee city, has been the epicenter of the government’s island makeover efforts, though not everybody is convinced that its increasingly saturated hotel market will be enough to make the city into an international tourism destination. While Sanya arguably has the right “hardware”, with resorts by Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Banyan Tree and others, the dream of seeing the city become the playground for wealthy Chinese and foreign tourists by 2020 still looks ambitious.
To kick in the “software” side of Hainan, provincial officials have heavily promoted blue (ocean), green (eco-tourism) and red (communist history) tourism to mainland Chinese tourists, and recently launched the aforementioned duty-free shopping program to boost tourist spending.
Most recently, tourism officials have again turned to culture to boost the island’s draw, at least among domestic tourists, drawing up a new policy combining tourism with culture. Via China Daily:
An example is the tourism zone Betel Nut Valley, which boosted its capacity by 140 percent to accommodate the large number of visitors during the national holiday this year.
Another is a symbol of Sanya’s dancing, the live Good Charm of Betel Nut Valley show, which has deep roots in the region’s hunting tradition and folk songs. It attracts millions of tourists every year.
Cherry Apple Tree, a love story musical and dance performance combining Miao, Li and Han folk cultures has hosted a total audience of 100,000 at more than 200 successful stage shows.
Statistics show that Sanya received 8.58 million tourists last year, a 14.5 percent increase over 2010. In the first half of this year, the number reached 4.44 million, year-on-year growth of 3.16 percent.
Much like Macau, Hainan has been eager to promote itself to regional filmmakers as a backdrop for cinema and television. Slated to be completed in 2018, Hainan’s Universal Studios-esque South China Sea Studio City is being promoted as China’s first to cover “a full range of movie-related services from production studios to sightseeing, entertainment and even a hot spring.” Expected to cost around 4 billion yuan (US$640 million), the “city” will cover around 300,000 square meters.