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