Sanya has seen two decades of ram­pant growth, and with pop­u­lar Ya­long Bay fill­ing up, new re­sorts are be­ing built in Hai­tang Bay to the north. Va­le­rian Ho went to in­ves­ti­gate

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

As Sanya, the “Hawaii of China”, be­comes in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, new devel­op­ment is spilling over from Ya­long Bay to Haitung Bay

Asia is blessed with a sur­feit of trop­i­cal re­sort des­ti­na­tions, where sun­shine, beaches and wa­ter sports pro­vide the per­fect hol­i­day get­away. Com­pared to the likes of Bali or Phuket, China might not be the first place that springs to mind. How­ever, travel south as far as you can go to the tip of Hainan Is­land, and you’ll find Sanya – a trop­i­cal hotspot known as “the Hawaii of China”, that hosted more than 16 mil­lion hol­i­day­mak­ers last year.

Ad­mit­tedly most of these were do­mes­tic tourists, but in­creas­ing num­bers of for­eign visi­tors are test­ing Sanya’s wa­ters, drawn by at­trac­tively priced in­ter­na­tional five-star re­sorts, clean air, an av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of 25˚C and cool sea breezes.

Rus­sian tourists in par­tic­u­lar are show­ing an ap­petite for the trop­i­cal Chi­nese des­ti­na­tion, with di­rect flights now op­er­at­ing from places such as Yeka­ter­in­burg, Novosi­birsk and Kras­no­yarsk in ad­di­tion to the coun­try’s main cities.

The ma­jor­ity of in­ter­na­tional visi­tors stay in pic­turesque Ya­long Bay, a seven-kilo­me­tre arc of golden sand lo­cated 10km to the east of the city. Ho­tel devel­op­ment here be­gan in 1996, as ma­jor ho­tel chains like Mar­riott, St Regis, Hil­ton and Ritz-Carl­ton saw huge po­ten­tial. With di­rect ac­cess to the beach and a range of wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties from div­ing to para­sail­ing, these re­sorts quickly be­came pop­u­lar.

More and more re­sorts opened, un­til the whole wa­ter­front was packed and ho­tels were forced to open in the land be­hind… though with no beach­front space they were at an im­me­di­ate dis­ad­van­tage.

With de­mand con­tin­u­ing to grow, the search for prime land in­evitably shifted north to the next cres­cent of sand: Hai­tang Bay.

Lo­cated 28km east of Sanya’s city cen­tre and a smooth 45-minute drive from the air­port on new, mod­ern roads, Hai­tang Bay is much larger than Ya­long, its beach stretch­ing an im­pres­sive 42 kilo­me­tres. The first ho­tel, a Con­rad, opened in 2010, and others soon fol­lowed. It can­not yet com­pare to the well-de­vel­oped Ya­long Bay – and in one spe­cific area it never will, for the gov­ern­ment has banned all wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties in Hai­tang Bay be­cause of tur­bu­lent sea con­di­tions.

This hasn’t put off the de­vel­op­ers and hos­pi­tal­ity groups, how­ever. Though con­strained by a lack of wa­ter­borne of­fer­ings, ho­tels and re­sorts open­ing in Hai­tang Bay have de­vel­oped their own unique sell­ing

points in or­der to at­tract guests, fo­cus­ing on dis­tinc­tive fa­cil­i­ties and at­trac­tions.

Un­der­stand­ing that a ma­jor por­tion of the mar­ket would be va­ca­tion­ing fam­i­lies, the Grand Hy­att Sanya built some­thing spe­cial for kids. Three out­door pools are each de­signed for dif­fer­ent age groups and cover a to­tal of 2,080 sqm, from the Fun Pool pro­vid­ing slides and wa­ter sprays for younger guests, to the Fam­ily Pool fea­tur­ing more com­plex recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties and en­ter­tain­ment. Mean­while, Camp Hy­att houses in­door and out­door ad­ven­ture play­grounds, an ac­tiv­ity cen­tre and a ju­nior chef’s kitchen.

In De­cem­ber last year The Sanya Edi­tion be­came the first of Mar­riott’s Edi­tion brand in Asia. A lux­ury life­style brand with an ocean­front set­ting, its sig­na­ture fa­cil­ity is the spec­tac­u­lar 20,000 sqm Pri­vate Ocean, sur­rounded by land­scaped gar­den and hold­ing ten mil­lion gal­lons of seawa­ter, which is pumped in from the sea and com­pletely re­placed every 30 hours or so. It’s an im­pres­sive mar­quee at­trac­tion, and gives guests the chance to pad­dle­board, kayak, sail in sun­fish dinghies, pedal a wa­ter bike, ride on wa­ter mo­tor­cy­cles, use sea scoot­ers… or sim­ply swim in a ded­i­cated area over­look­ing the South China Sea. You don’t have to

get your feet wet to en­joy it ei­ther, with wa­ter­side ca­banas and a float­ing deck avail­able if you fancy din­ner in the cen­tre of the “ocean”.

Close by is the Hai­tang Bay In­ter­na­tional Shop­ping Com­plex, a par­adise for shopa­holics. A 70,000 sqm re­tail and com­mer­cial com­plex, this curv­ing, ul­tra­mod­ern build­ing in­te­grates duty-free shop­ping, restau­rants, en­ter­tain­ment and cul­tural venues, and hun­dreds of pre­mium-brand out­lets from Gucci, Burberry and Chanel to Prada, Rolex and Gior­gio Ar­mani. Said to be the most high-end duty-free shop­ping mall in China, its lo­ca­tion in Sanya, and specif­i­cally in Hai­tang Bay, shows how much con­fi­dence there is in this re­gion’s fu­ture prospects.

In­cred­i­bly, it seems that Hai­tang Bay is al­most at sat­u­ra­tion point al­ready.“The coast­line will soon be filled up [with re­sorts],” says Xavi Gon­za­lez, gen­eral man­ager of The Sanya Edi­tion.“The next de­vel­op­ments will be be­hind the ex­ist­ing re­sorts, on a sec­ond [in­land] line. You can al­ready see the con­struc­tion sites; some are empty, but they have al­ready been as­signed to dif­fer­ent big brands. In to­tal, 20 to 30 re­sorts will be open­ing in Hai­tang Bay.”

One of the most dra­matic and ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated is

At­lantis Sanya, a 62-hectare in­te­grated en­ter­tain­ment re­sort that’s cost an es­ti­mated RMB11 bil­lion (US$1.6 bil­lion). A sis­ter project to At­lantis Par­adise Is­land in the Ba­hamas and At­lantis, the Palm in Dubai, this huge wa­ter-themed park will be com­ple­mented by Sanya’s largest ho­tel, which will have 1,314 rooms in its first phase alone. Sched­uled to open by the end of this year, At­lantis Sanya will boast all the fa­cil­i­ties peo­ple ex­pect of a mega-re­sort these days, from world-renowned chefs’ restau­rants to ex­otic bars and lounges. The high­light will be the Aqua­ven­ture Wa­ter­park, with its fresh and saltwater pools, la­goons, and ex­ten­sive rides and slides. There will also be marine ex­hibits – pre­sent­ing more than 2,600 marine species – in­clud­ing an open-air marine habi­tat and a dol­phin in­ter­ac­tion and ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre. De­spite its late en­trance to the Sanya party, Hai­tang Bay looks set to shine, bump­ing up the des­ti­na­tion’s appeal for the hordes of sun, sea and sand wor­ship­pers to come.

This page clock­wise from top: An il­lus­tra­tion of At­lantis Sanya; The Sanya Edi­tion; and Hai­tang Bay In­ter­na­tional Shop­ping Com­plex Op­po­site page bot­tom left and right: Tianya­hai­jiao Rock and Luhuitou Peak Gar­den

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