TROP­I­CAL TREAT FOR THE WIN­TER

For those who can­not stand the cold, Hainan of­fers the per­fect respite. And the local au­thor­i­ties are pulling out all stops to boost vis­i­tor num­bers, both from home and over­seas. re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ed­ward Hutchins, 26, fell in love with Hainan prov­ince — the Hawaii of China — the first time when he saw its beau­ti­ful trop­i­cal scenery. When the New Zealan­der de­cided to move to China three years ago, he first vis­ited Hainan and stayed there for three months.

“I’m lucky that I met many friendly peo­ple there, who showed me around Hainan, let­ting me ex­pe­ri­ence the local life­style,” says Hutchins, who works in a tech­nol­ogy com­pany in Beijing.

Hutchins loved the clean beaches, the cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties and wa­ter sports in­Hainan.

But among his fa­vorite ac­tiv­i­ties was hik­ing up the Wuzhi Moun­tains to en­joy views of the trop­i­cal rain forests and to ex­pe­ri­ence the tra­di­tional cul­ture of the Li eth­nic group.

Now, like him, an in­creas­ing num­ber of for­eign­ers are trav­el­ing toHainan.

“Hainan is com­pet­ing with its over­seas coun­ter­parts in the tourism mar­ket.

“We’re tar­get­ing tourists from home and abroad,” says Zhou Ping, deputy direc­tor of the Hainan Provin­cial Tourism De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to him, Hainan’s top over­seas mar­kets are South Korea and Rus­sia.

But vis­i­tors also come from South­east Asian coun­tries, Europe and the United States.

“Some for­eign­ers who visit are based in­China. We warmly wel­come them and hope to at­tract their fam­i­lies and friends too,” he says.

“The provin­cial gov­ern­ment is striv­ing to de­velop the is­land into an in­ter­na­tional desti­na­tion. We’re im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture such as roads that con­nect to the scenic spots,” says Zhou.

In 2015, the cir­cu­lar rail­way that con­nects the provin­cial cap­i­talHaikou with Sanya city was com­pleted.

It is sup­posed to be the world’s first high-speed train cir­cling an is­land, and it takes more than three hours to com­plete the loop, giv­ing trav­el­ers stun­ning views of the ocean and the green­ery.

Zhou says that while most of the pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions are in the east­ern part of Hainan, the west­ern part is also be­gin­ning to draw vis­i­tors with the rail­way open­ing.

Eas­ing travel re­stric­tions is an­other way that Hainan has sought to at­tract over­seas vis­i­tors.

In 2000, Hainan waived visas for tourist groups from 21 coun­tries who used au­tho­rized Chi­nese travel agen­cies, and added five more coun­tries to the list in 2010.

Zhou says the local gov­ern­ment also of­fers sub­si­dies to air­lines to in­crease in­bound traf­fic, and plans to al­low more di­rect flights from Europe and the United Stated.

Char­tered flights are also be­ing en­cour­aged, he says.

Cui Chenx­ing, gen­eral man­ager of theHainan Ko­ryo Hol­i­day Travel Agency, says the agency is work­ing with South Korean air­lines to run four char­tered flights per week from Seoul, Bu­san and Daegu to Hainan for groups and in­de­pen­dent trav­el­ers, and it will in­crease the char­ters to six in­Novem­ber and 14 in De­cem­ber.

She says it takes about four and a half hours by air from South Korea toHainan, and that the agency’s tours typ­i­cally run for four to five days.

The av­er­age cost of an air ticket and ac­com­mo­da­tion is be­tween 5,000 ($739) and 8,000 yuan per per­son, de­pend­ing on says.

“About half our cus­tomers are fam­i­lies that of­ten choose to stay in a five-star ho­tel.

“Vis­i­tors also travel toHainan for leisure ac­tiv­i­ties such as to play golf in the win­ter, and they like des­ti­na­tions likeHaikou, which have nu­mer­ous ho­tels.”

Speak­ing about how the is­land has changed in the last fewyears, she saysmany in­ter­na­tional ho­tels have come up in Hainan, and that the hy­giene stan­dards and public in­fra­struc­ture on the is­land have also im­proved.

As for what for­eign vis­i­tors like and what they can ex­pect in Hainan, Zhou says: “For­eign tourists love ocean-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties such as fish­ing and surf­ing. But we hope they can travel to the ru­ral ar­eas as well, and ex­pe­ri­ence cy­cling along roads lined with co­conut trees. We also hope they can sa­vor eth­nic cul­tures and food.”

Zhou says that the peak sea­son forHainan is just ahead as peo­ple tend to visit to avoid harsher win­ter in north­ern China, for in­stance.

The an­nual Hainan Car­ni­val will be held from Nov 26 and Dec 31, with plenty of events for tourists such as a mu­sic fes­ti­val, a fire­works show on New Year’s Eve and a food fair. the ho­tel, she

Xu Lin

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Above: Nan­shan Tem­ple, a fa­mous tourist desti­na­tion in Sanya, Hainan prov­ince. Below: The­god­dess of mercy statue in the Nan­shan sea­side area of Sanya.

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