The tropical landscape, flourishing mangroves and delicious local food in Sanya, at the southern tip of the island province of Hainan, left sweet memories to George Liu and his family from Hong Kong during a recent cruise tour.
"We enjoyed the stay in Sanya and may invite our friends to visit the beautiful vacation resort again some day," said Liu.
Liu and his family were among the 3,009 walk-in tourists to partake in Dream Cruises, under Hong Kong Star Cruises. It has the largest cruise liner in Asia with a tonnage of 150,695 and is 335.35 meters in length. The liner stopped at the 10-year-old Sanya Phoenix Island International Cruise Terminal earlier this month.
This is the first time that Sanya, one of China's largest cruise ports, received an international cruise with walk-in tourists.
It also marks the first time the city sent cruises tourists to destinations via sea buses to offer visitors new experiences.
"The Sanya Phoenix Island International Cruise Terminal will be able to harbor five to seven cruises and receive 2 million tourists annually, one of the largest in Asia, when its second-phase expansion is completed," said Cai Chaohui, deputy manager of the port's business center.
The State Council, China's cabinet, and the Hainan provincial authorities have issued a number of policies to promote cruise tourism in Hainan, a move to push development of new tourism models and products.
Companies that choose Hainan ports as a terminal or stopover port will be awarded financial bonuses of up to 400,000 yuan ($58,820) for each voyage.
A total of 62.24 million domestic and overseas tourists, among them 49.77 million overnight visitors, toured Hainan in 2016, bringing in 67.25 billion yuan in revenue.
Ocean tourism is becoming a new industry with great potential for Hainan.
Fu Buming, an official in charge of the provincial cruise and yacht management office, said Hainan has exclusive natural, geographical and policy advantages to develop the cruise and yacht industry.
The tax-refund and duty-free policy, free visas and visas on arrival for visitors from 59 countries and regions are building a healthy environment to attract both domestic and overseas tourists.
Zhu Deliang, dean of the tourism college under Hainan Normal University, suggested that Hainan enrich its sea tourism products, focus on near-sea tourism and integrate sea voyage routes into land routes to seek more economic and social benefits.
"It is encouraging that Hainan is making solid progress in diversifying its tourism products and upgrading its international stance.
"But there is still room to improve its services, such as greater convenience for entry and exit, more internationalized finance services, more competitive prices and more attractive tourism products," said Jiang Yiyi, director of the International Tourism Research Institute under the China Tourism Academy.
In order to meet diversified needs for tourism products, Hainan is also sparing no efforts in developing healthcare tourism, sightseeing in local villages and towns, rainforest adventures, RV camping, sports, folk culture and shopping, according to provincial tourism authorities.