Overseas tourists enjoy themselves on a beach in Sanya. [Photo by Yuan Yongdong/hinews.cn]
China's southern island province of Hainan received 946,000 overseas tourists in the first six months, close to the annual figure of 1.1 million for 2017 thanks to its new visa-free policy, which is yielding positive results since its launch in May, China News Agency reported Monday.
On May 1, the island province started to offer greater visa-free access for tourists from 59 countries to Hainan, expanding from 26 countries previously.
The policy has also boosted the growth of the local aviation industry. In the first half of this year, Hainan opened and resumed 12 international flight routes, increasing the total number of routes to 53.
To date, Hainan has opened air routes with 34 countries among the 59 that enjoy the visa-free policy, such as Italy, Australia, Russia, Japan and countries in Southeast Asia.
HNA airport group, a subsidiary of the Haikou-based Fortune Global 500 company HNA Group, which owns the four airports in Hainan, plans to open 20 international routes with visa-free countries later this year, including to London and St Petersburg.
"Hainan should launch more tourism products that fit the foreign tourism market, and stabilize tourism product prices during its bleak and peak seasons, and build up the comprehensive strength of its tourism industry," said Ge Jian, deputy secretary-general for the organization for European and Asian Economic Cooperation.
In 2017, more than 1.1 million foreign tourists visited Hainan, up nearly 50 percent year-on-year. By 2020, the number of overseas tourists to Hainan is expected to exceed 2 million.
The island province recently released a three-year action plan (2018-2020) to enhance the global influence of its tourism sector. According to the plan, Hainan is going to boost its international flight routes to 70 by the end of 2018, and the number will be increase to 100 by 2020.
Measures such as building a global duty-free shopping center and a base for the international MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions) industry on the island are also expected to bring in more passengers.