Hainan province will take advantage of the upcoming Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2017 to seek new growth opportunities, according to Liu Cigui, governor of the island province, the permanent location of the event.
Billed for March 23-26 in Boao, Hainan, China's only tropical province, the annual forum has focused on growth issues in Asia since its launch in 2001. The theme for the 2017 conference will be "Globalization and Free Trade, the Asian Perspective".
At a recent meeting mobilizing the province to prepare for the event, Liu urged all concerned sectors to make full use of the forum's resources and influence to tap opportunities for investment and cooperation, while providing first-rate services, including well-organized and individualized reception and security mechanisms.
Investing in growth
More than a decade ago, Boao was only a small fishing village, little known to the outside world. Today, it has become a major and inclusive platform for people to compare notes on issues important to Asia's development, yet with a global perspective.
Talking about the impact of the Boao forum on Hainan, Chi Fulin, director of the Hainan-based China Institute for Reform and Development, said: "The influence Boao has had on Hainan is actual and far-reaching in many aspects. Hainan's brand, its visibility and reputation have been notably advanced thanks to Boao, and hence the rapid development of its tourism industry, the surge of outside investment and the inevitable promotion of local economic growth and social development."
Governor Liu said the expected new cooperation and investment from beyond the island's coastline will focus on the 12 pillar industries set out by the provincial government for its 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20).
Hainan provincial government plans to launch 501 major projects in 2017, with the annual investment projected to be around 228.8 billion yuan ($33.16 billion).
"These projects will have far-reaching effects in upgrading Hainan's 12 pillar industries, infrastructure, and the hard and soft facilities for social life for the more than nine million people in Hainan," said Liu.
He told the 2017 Hainan Provincial People's Congress in his government work report that Hainan is targeting a 2017 regional GDP growth of 7 percent, with 10 percent growth in fixed asset investment and 9 percent growth in retail sales. These rates are slightly modified from 2016's figures.
Last year, Hainan's provincial GDP reached 404.5 billion yuan, up 7.5 percent from 2015, its investments in fixed assets increased 11.7 percent to 374.7 billion yuan, while its total retail sales volume amounted to 145.4 billion yuan, up 9.7 percent.
Business, tourism hotspot
Hainan has several key advantages: a well-maintained environment, being China's only provincial special economic zone and its rich tourism resources as a tropical island.
"Now these advantages are turning into development advantages as the central government has created new opportunities by granting Hainan a number of reform and creative missions, such as integrated regional development planning, becoming a holistic tourism demonstration province, and building a service trade development demonstration center," said Zhu Huayou, deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Development and Reform Commission.
In 2009, the island province was put on the list of national strategies for development as an International Tourist Destination. Since then, a series of preferential policies, such as free visas for tourists from more than 20 countries and ofshore duty-free shopping of up to 16,000 yuan per capita a year, have been granted to the province to boost its development and opening-up drive. The national strategy has put Hainan on a fast track of growth and much of the investment has flowed to infrastructure construction - high-speed railways, hotels, high-end commercial estates and tourism facilities - all have further improved the competitiveness of its tourism industry.
Hainan's economic strength has continued to grow as heavyweight domestic and foreign investors flock to the island to take advantage of the province's steadily improving business environment, and unique geographical and natural resources, according to experts.
The tropical island is considered to be one of the country's best places for living and tourism, with its year-round warm climate, forests that cover more than 60 percent of its surface and large number of aquatic farms that produce an impressive variety of seafood products.
In 2001, Hainan received 11.24 million visitors. That figure rose to more than 60.23 million in 2016. Revenue from tourism totaled 8.7 billion yuan in 2001 and the figure jumped to 66.9 billion yuan last year, up 16.97 percent from 2015.
Hainan will develop 100 boutique tourism projects, with total investment set to reach 512.7 billion yuan from 2016-20, according to its 13th Five-Year Plan.
The projects will highlight coastal leisure tourism, rain-forest ecological tourism, cultural experience tourism and beautiful village tourism; parks with themes on aerospace, ocean, film and forest will be created and cooperation and investments are welcome, according to the provincial government.
Meanwhile, the government is promoting high efficiency tropical agriculture, with 83 projects focusing on tropical fruits, flowers and plants, winter-season melons and vegetables, and ocean fishing. Total investment in the sector during the 13th Five-Year Plan period is projected to reach about 70 billion yuan.
"Hainan will draft measures and preferential policies regarding commerce, finance, science and technology, and taxation this year to create a more open, convenient and transparent business environment to attract overseas investment, and advanced technology and management experiences to upgrade the level and quality of overseas investment applications," said Feng Yan, an oficial with the province's commission for development and reform.
Hainan province has improved its infrastructure, including high-speed railways, to improve the competitiveness of its tourism industry.Liu Xiaoli / For China Daily
Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2016 is held in Hainan province in March last year.Huang Yiming / China Daily