Salesmen angle for big fish at Sanya event

Updated: 2014-04-04 10:45

By Xie Yu (China Daily)

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Endowed with glamorous tropical scenery and unspoiled beaches, the southern Chinese city of Sanya is an ideal place for a party.

In fact, the city has been trying for years to turn itself into a party destination for the rich.

Billboards announcing the China Rendezvous could be seen on almost all the major roads in Sanya last weekend. Held for the past five years, China Rendezvous, tailored to Chinese billionaires, is said to be the most luxurious, most mysterious and craziest party ever. Of course, along with these "VVIPs", the event also attracts salespeople from yacht companies promoting their products.

Salesmen angle for big fish at Sanya event

Salesmen angle for big fish at Sanya event

Setting sail into uncharted waters 

I was a bit lost when I arrived in downtown Sanya. It no longer was the peaceful small city I remembered with the spread-out seafood and barbecue stalls.

Gigantic apartment buildings had sprung up along the roadways, and more were under construction. Trucks carrying construction materials whizzed by. People told me that numerous properties had been built over the past few years, with housing prices surging from 4,000 yuan ($644) per square meter to more than 20,000 yuan.

I gazed at a billboard. In the picture, four white people - two women and two men - dressed in shimmering evening gowns and formal suits were toasting each other with Champagne. No Chinese person was shown in the picture. I began to wonder: Is this what rich people like - a holiday destination with dense flat buildings and completely Western-style leisure?

The parties started when night fell. Foreign DJs occupied the stage. The deck was jammed with people, mostly young, tanned women in low-cut dresses. Waiters served endless glasses of Champagne and other alcohol.

There also were men in polo shirts. I talked with a man from Shanghai who planned to sign a contract for a yacht at 25 million yuan. In his casual Lacoste polo shirt, I would not have recognized him as extremely wealthy if the organizer had not introduced him to me as such.

In fact, the organizer knew every big fish in the pool. His goal is to please these potential clients during the party and get the deal done.

"There is a circle of rich people who are interested in yachts. Once you break in and get their approval, you get your opportunities. It is not so hard to promote, because rich people need to show off their fortunes and become uneasy when they lag behind," a salesman said.

One thing I failed to witness was any debauchery. Rumors of wild orgies and photos of scantily dressed models taken at China Rendezvous 2013 clearly taught the organizers a lesson.

The result of this year's caution might indeed prove that without going too far, they still will get deals done.

"I have a small yacht in San Francisco, but it's not big enough to go out to sea. I plan to buy a bigger one with friends this time and moor it in Sanya," a businessman from Taiwan told me. "After all, I often travel to the mainland, and the sea here is beautiful," he added.

Looking back at the city from a sailing yacht, I sincerely hoped that the yacht business will boom and become a substitute for real estate to fuel the economy, if growth is that important. After all, sailing does not create as much pollution.