An island looks overseas - Travel

The Nanshan scenic area, featuring a statue of Buddha Avalokitesvara or Guan Yin, in Sanya, is among top tourist destinations in…

The Nanshan scenic area, featuring a statue of Buddha Avalokitesvara or Guan Yin, in Sanya, is among top tourist destinations in Hainan. [Photo provided to China Daily]

With the tide of inbound tourists rising, Hainan is adopting policies and developing services and infrastructure to court foreign travelers.

Favorable visa policies, more international flights and tax rebates have accelerated Hainan province's inbound tourism.

It's not uncommon to see Russians and Ukrainians strolling among the old-style buildings or enjoying such traditional Chinese medical treatments as acupuncture and acupressure.

"Lots of foreigners gather in the Dadonghai Bay area, especially at night," says Cui Peng, a resident of the island province's city, Sanya.

"They fill Western restaurants in the area."

Inbound travelers made 1.26 million visits to Hainan last year. That's nearly 30 percent more than in 2017. Tourism income also increased by over 13 percent to $770 million during the period.

This news comes from: China Daily

Russian visitors arrive on an inbound flight to Sanya. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The province's government aims to attract 1.5 million inbound travel visits this year.

The introduction of 30-day visa-free stays in Hainan for certain nationalities on May 1, has produced a surge in travel agencies' orders.

"We handled bookings for about 10,000 Southeast Asian travelers in 2017, but the number exceeded 30,000 last year," Hainan Classic Vacation Travel Service's general manager Yan Yunfei says.

Hainan's tourism promotions overseas and increased international flights have also contributed to the growth, Yan says.

A total of 74 inbound flights to Hainan operated in 2018, and provincial tourism authorities plan to increase the number to 85 this year.

Tourists practice Chinese calligraphy in Boao as part of a medical tourism package. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The province also organized more than 40 promotions in other countries and regions, including Southeast Asia, Europe, the United States, Australia and Russian-speaking areas, last year.

"Our (tourism) promotion has been following where the flights lead us," Hainan Kangtai Travel inbound center's marketing director Zhang Bin tells China Tourism News.

Zhang has spent a considerable amount of time flying to the United Kingdom, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam over the past 12 months.

The inbound tourism business of Zhang's agency grew 200 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year. It now offers chartered flights for travelers from Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Melbourne.

Zhang expects more travelers from abroad as new flights from Japan, France, Germany and the US begin operating. The agency has already prepared products and services for these potential customers.

This news comes from: China Daily

A foreign visitor joins locals in a bamboo pole dance. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Tour operators have also launched routes specifically for inbound travelers.

A typical package features a seaside stay, golf, ethnic Li and Miao cultural experiences, hot springs and cocktails with dinner.

Many also include qilou (old-style buildings), dormant volcanoes and religious elements, plus gourmet food.

"We've received a pretty good response (from inbound travelers) after we added distinctive elements to the itineraries," China Travel International Sanya Co's inbound tourism general manager Huang Guijiao tells China Tourism News.

Huang's company has incorporated religious experiences at the Nanshan Buddhism cultural resort, traditional Chinese medicine and high-speed rail transport into its products for inbound tourists.

"We've received many bookings from Poland for TCM treatments later this year," Huang says.

Foreign visitors to Hainan's Baoting watch as a Miao ethnic woman weaves in a traditional manner.

Hainan's tourism prospects are drawing international tourism players.

Thomas Cook Sanya Branch, a joint-venture travel agency launched by the UK-based Thomas Cook and the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International last year, plans to use its global networks, especially in Europe, to publicize Hainan.

The idea is to cater to European preferences while presenting Hainan authentically, a senior member of the company says.

It offers such experiences as tai chi, rafting at Wuzhi Mountain and dining at the No 1 Farmers Market.

American Terrance Thomas spent the recent Spring Festival in Hainan.

"I came after my friend introduced Hainan to me, and he was impressed with the clean air in Haikou and that it was small enough to travel everywhere in one day," he says.

"It's much better here than in most places I have been. Trees and clean rivers make Hainan beautiful. The sounds of tropical birds chirping are beautiful."

Thomas enjoyed trips to the Yanoda rainforest in Sanya and several mountains for their "amazing tropical views".

"I've grown to love this place, and I believe that together we can protect Hainan while making it more available for people all over the world to experience," he says.

But tourism operators say that in addition to potential are opportunities for further development.

Not enough guides speak Indonesian, Thai or Filipino. And such tourism needs as quality tour buses and multilingual signage are lacking, Huang says.

Villages also need more government input to develop sightseeing transport and toilets, a Thomas Cook Sanya Branch employee says.

This news comes from: China Daily

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