Customers queue to pay bills at a counter in a duty-free shopping mall in Sanya, Hainan province. [Photo/Xinhua]
The tropical island province of Hainan is transforming into an international tourism destination in line with the central government's development blueprint, focusing on upgrading its tourism products, infrastructure and services.
"Hainan needs internationally popular tourism and entertainment offerings to provide visitors more options, to become an international tourism and consumer hub, and to enrich the Hainan free trade zone and port," Hainan Daily, a local paper, quoted a provincial cultural and sports affairs department official as saying recently.
The State Council released a plan in late 2009 to build Hainan into a global tourism destination. Ever since, tourism has been a pillar industry, as the island is developing world-class attractions to entice visitors from across the world.
Hainan has been nurturing the tourism industry, bringing in high-end products and upgrading its services to international standards, to ensure visitors get a great travel experience, according to Sun Ying, director of the Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission.
Considered a holiday paradise in China, Hainan will prioritize the development of large theme park projects, rainforest theme parks and wetland national parks, cruise tours, the performing arts, island-spanning tourism ring roads and improved international tourism marketing, Sun said.
A central government guideline released in April said the authorities will back the province's development of a national sports tourism demonstration area, horse racing, and beach and water sports.
Horse racing, a popular form of entertainment in many world-class tourist destinations, is gaining traction in Hainan. The local authorities said they are in discussions with academic research institutes and professional bodies to map a route forward for the healthy and orderly development of the sport on the island.
A traditional aspect of Chinese culture and an internationally popular sport, horse racing is currently being developed in more than 80 countries and regions around the world. Experts said the sport will be a big boost to tourism in Hainan.
Sanya, a resort city at the southern tip of Hainan island, is known as China's Florida. Cirque du Soleil staged its live multimedia immersive show TorukŁThe First Flight in the city for three months from Feb 1 to May 1 this year.
Atlantis Sanya, a giant entertainment complex built over 30 hectares with 11 billion yuan ($1.66 billion), opened in late April. It greets guests with a larger-than-life water play area, exotic marine exhibits and gourmet dining experiences at Haitang Bay in northeastern Sanya. The world-class resort area features beautiful and quiet beaches that stretch to the horizon.
A 900-kilometer-long, 13.5 billion yuan tourist road is under construction, which will connect the island's 12 major coastal cities and counties. Once complete, the road will open up the beautiful inland areas, featuring Hainan's rainforests and wetlands, and the traditional culture of the Li and Miao ethnic groups, said local tourism officials.
The provincial government recently released a development program, which estimated that the province will receive 80 million visitors in 2020, with total revenue hitting 100 billion yuan.
The province received more than 67.45 million tourists in 2017, up 12.2 percent year-on-year, contributing 81 billion yuan in revenue, more than double the figures in 2013. More than 1.1 million foreign tourists visited Hainan last year, up nearly 50 percent year-on-year.
As of May, the island province offers visa-free access for tourists from 59 countries, expanding from 26 countries previously. Hainan had 57 international air routes by the end of 2017 and plans to operate 100 international routes by 2020.