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Hainan keen to boost tourism

China's tropical province Hainan will make greater efforts to make itself a top international beach destination, competing against Bali, Phuket and Jeju-do, its governor said yesterday.


"Tourism will become the pillar industry in our province and Hainan will become a world famous island in 10 or 15 years," Luo Baoming, the governor of Hainan, said while delivering a government work report at the second full session of the regional people's congress that opened yesterday.


"In order to speed up the international tourism development, we are trying to implement more favorable policies regarding on-arrival visas, visa exemptions and duty-free shops."


This year, 3.7 billion yuan ($541 million) will be spent on 26 tourism infrastructure projects, including local public services and information centers.


Hainan, the second largest ocean island and smallest land province in China, is located at the south end of the country. Boasting a pleasing climate, golden sunshine, white beaches and lush forests, it is dubbed "the oriental Hawaii."


In 1988, the island province became the largest special economic zone in China in order to attract more investment. The local tourism market did not gear up until the 1990s and it has attracted more and more tourists from home and abroad seeking beach holidays.


The government report said that last year, travelers from home and abroad made 20.6 million journeys to the island, a 10 percent increase from 2007.


Tourism revenue grew 8 percent to 8.5 billion yuan.


In addition to over 10 monthly charter flights between the beach city Sanya and Russia, there are the international flights connecting Hainan with the United Kingdom, Japan and Malaysia.


To attract more foreign tourists, since 2001, the province has developed a favorable visa policy for the group visitors from 21 countries, such as the US, Russia and Canada. The policy allows citizens of those countries visa-free entry to Hainan for 15 days.


But the current visa policy cannot meet the demand of the increasing number of overseas tourists and many individual travelers may give up the visit to Hainan due to the time-consuming visa application procedures, a local tourist official said.


"We should make a more relaxing visa policy for travelers to Hainan and expand the category of visa-free groups," Lu Zhiyuan, director of the provincial tourism bureau, said yesterday.


In addition, this year Hainan will set up several offices in Germany, Russia and Hong Kong to better promote the island's tourism.


(China Daily January 13, 2009)