On Wednesday night, July 19, the maiden flight of a new air route from Haikou, the capital city of Hainan province, landed at Manila international airport, adding another international route linking the tropical Chinese island with the outside world.
Hainan, a reputable resort island among domestic tourists, is accelerating the opening of such international routes to lure more international tourists.
There are currently more than 50 international air routes connecting Hainan with neighboring countries and regions, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The province opened or resumed 30 international flight lines, with growth of 42.9 percent year-on-year in 2016, and for the first time overseas passengers exceeded 1 million to reach 1.08 million, according to official statistics.
Hainan plans to expand its international air routes to about 100 in the coming two years to link the island province with more countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, said Wang Changren, deputy director of the Hainan provincial development and reform commission, at a news conference on Tuesday.
He said Hainan is strengthening its cooperation in opening more airline and cruise lines with Belt and Road countries as it builds a pan South China Sea tourism economic cooperation rim and a cruiser economy belt of Silk Road countries.
Chen Tiejun, deputy director of the Hainan Tourism Development Commission, said the island province will encourage international cruise companies to open routes connecting it to other countries and regions, thereby bringing in more tourists.
The provincial government recently released a plan to promote new consumption products in order to boost local tourism and economy.
The province now offers a visa-free policy to group visitors from 26 countries, including South Korea, Japan, Russia, Malaysia and the United States. It allows tour groups of five or more citizens of the above countries to travel to Hainan without a visa for 15 days. Citizens of Russia, South Korea and Germany enjoy an expanded policy, allowing groups of two or more citizens to stay up to 21 days visa free when entering the Hainan border.
The visa-free policy will be further updated to benefit tourists from 59 countries in the near future, according to the plan.
The plan outlines how international standards will be adopted in the tourism sector to improve public services, enhance foreign language communication skills and improve currency exchange services.
Hainan is working hard to create an attractive destination for foreign tourists via many methods. Last year, the provincial tourism authorities invited overseas experts to experience traveling around the island to help identify any problems that foreign visitors would likely encounter during their stay.
They spent two weeks traveling via high-speed railway, bus, bicycle and taxi, visiting 34 scenic spots, just as tourists usually do. They formed a report covering required improvements to ensure the international standards of the tourism island in terms of transportation, communication, infrastructure and services.
Hainan, approved by the State Council to build itself into a top international tourism destination by 2020, has made great strides in the past six years.
The island was named the most desirable overseas tourist destination of 2017 by a vote initiated by Hong Kong Commercial Daily's online and social media, which received 1.61 million effective votes.
Hainan ranks on the top of the list among 92 Chinese mainland tourist destinations, with 84,701 votes hailing its natural and tourist service advantages.
The local authorities have recently introduced more promotional activities in foreign countries that target Western visitors.
Thanks to all the efforts the province has made, Hainan saw more than 520,000 inbound tourist arrivals in the first half of the year, a jump of 57.5 percent from the previous year, data showed on the official website of the Hainan tourism authorities.
"We will further improve the internationalization standard of Haikou Mission Hills and Lingshui Qingshui Bay, which are regarded as demonstration resorts for foreign tourists, to meet international guests' requirements, especially European visitors," said Sun Ying, director of the Hainan tourism development commission.
All these efforts will make the goals set by the provincial government for 2020 achievable, primarily, seeing 80 million tourists annually, with 8.5 percent growth year-on-year.
By that time, 1.2 million foreign visitors will tour Hainan every year, per capita consumption will reach 3,500 yuan ($519.5), and annual tourism revenue will amount to 100 billion yuan, with yearly growth of 11.8 percent.