Tourists from around the world welcome to Hainan

Updated: 2015-07-17 09:00

By Andrew Moody, Jiang Wanjuan and Liu Xiaoli(China Daily Europe)

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China's only tropical island plans to be a tourist destination for foreigners, not just Chinese

China might not be most people's idea of the ultimate beach destination, but this might be about to change. The Chinese government wants Hainan, the country's only tropical island, to be an international tourism destination by 2020.

Boosting tourism on the island is part of the government's Belt and Road Initiative in terms of fostering greater cultural exchanges with other countries.

Tourists from around the world welcome to Hainan 

Tourism has also been classed as one of China's key strategic industries and one that will play a role in its transformation to a more services-led economy and away from low-cost manufacturing.

The number of inbound overseas tourists into China was 128.5 million last year, according to government figures, and the United Nations' World Tourism Organization forecasts the country will be the world's biggest tourism destination by 2020.

Hainan, however, faces a tough challenge attracting international tourists. Last year, only 650,000, or 1.4 percent, of its 47.89 million visitors came from outside China.

The island is partly handicapped by its own success. Many wealthy Chinese have multimillion-dollar second homes and their yachts moored in Sanya, Hainan's main resort, which has become a playground of the rich.

At certain times of the year, particularly Chinese New Year, hotel room rates can skyrocket in the resort, with the starting price for a week's accommodation often not leaving much change from 50,000 yuan ($8,050; 7,300 euros).

This can make an expensive destination compared with established resorts in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, which are also more international.

Tourists from around the world welcome to Hainan

Hainan lies off the Chinese mainland in the south. 

Luo Baoming, the top Party official in Hainan, is keen to take on the challenge.

"To build Hainan into a world-class specialist tourist zone is vital for the province to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative," he says.

"Tourism is the bridge for promoting friendship and cultural exchanges. It is the essential platform for us to be positioned on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road."

Hainan has certainly made huge strides as a tourism center. In 1988, it just had 1.2 million tourists, with 204,600 from outside China.

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