China Focus: Growing pains of resort island Hainan
HAIKOU, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Holidaymakers in Hainan had an unforgettable Spring Festival holiday this year, but not always for the right reasons.
The tropical island is a popular winter destination, especially around the Chinese Lunar New Year. However, unseasonal heavy fog disrupted the schedules of homebound tourists.
The fog began on Feb. 18 and lasted until Feb. 26. The Spring Festival holiday ended on Feb. 21.
At its worst, more than 100,000 people in 20,000 vehicles were stranded in a 20-km traffic jam, about a quarter of the total number of tourists who took their cars to the island. Besides waiting, there was little the tourists could do to escape the island.
There are only two ways into Hainan, by air or by sea. Tourists from the nearby Guangdong Province often take the ferry.
"About 53 ferries can transport about 19,000 vehicles to Guangdong every day. We can meet the basic demand but cannot cope with uncertainty," said Gu Gang, executive vice mayor of Haikou.
The number of vehicles heading for Hainan during the Spring Festival has risen by about 15 percent each year.
Prices of air some tickets from Hainan rose to 10,000 yuan (1,580 U.S. dollars) to some Chinese cities, so many people would rather wait in line.
Hainan intends to become a world-class tourist destination and receive more than 1.3 million overseas tourists in 2020.
But as tourism booms, problems emerge. In 2014, also during Spring Festival, traffic in Hainan was at a standstill after more than 100,000 vehicles swarmed into the island at the same time.
Hainan's two main airports were also overloaded during October's Golden Week holiday, according to He Bang with the province's civil aviation office.
"The airports are already operating at full capacity but cannot meet demand, so ticket prices will inevitably rise," He said.
During this holiday, tourists in Hainan reached 5.67 million, up 10 percent over last year.
"Air services need to be expanded immediately," said Wang Chun, head of Hainan's civil aviation office. The second phase of Haikou airport is under construction but is not expected to be completed until 2019. In the meantime, the airport in Sanya is being expanded. "Now it seems we need to accelerate both work," he added.
For tourists in their own cars, this year's experience is the last thing they want to repeat.
"Though poor weather was to blame, it told us that we must manage traffic better," said Luo Yazhong with Haikou's transportation and port authority.
"We should issue alerts more promptly and make arrangements to ease gridlock in advance," he said.