Hainan now offers many typical tourist products. According to Zhang's picture, it is replete with scenic spots and holiday resorts, including Yalong Bay National Resort, Nanshan Cultural Tourism Zone, Boao Tourism Zone and Jianfengling National Forest Park.
Tourists may also enjoy the abundant hot springs, with water temperature ranging from 40-78 degrees Centigrade. Another popular recreational pursuit is golf. There are 18 international standard golf courses and dozens of driving ranges.
Tourists can also enjoy characteristic cultures and customs of the local people. Many ethnic minorities live on the island, such as Li, Miao and Hui. In China, Li people live in the middle and south of Hainan Island only, and they have distinctive customs. It is easy to travel to the Li villages as most of the roads to them are expressways or paved roads.
At present, Hainan boasts 150 travel agencies, of which 41 can operate international businesses, and there are 69 tourist resorts of various kinds on the island.
Meanwhile, Hainan successfully hosted the 53rd, 54th, 55th and 57th Miss World pageants.
Convenient entry and exit
Hainan has the freest skies in China. Since 2003, any plane flying over China can land in Hainan, take on passengers and cargo and leave. No other place on the Chinese mainland has such open facilities. Furthermore, China's civil aviation administration also allows foreign airlines to extend their international air routes from Hainan to other mainland cities-excluding Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
"The largest beneficiary of open skies is the tourist industry, since it solves the problem of traffic limitations and speeds up the increased flow of international tourists," Chen said.
There are two airports in Hainan-Haikou Meilan International Airport and Sanya Fenghuang International Airport. Before 2003, Hainan only had five international air routes, but since then the number has increased to 44. Now 25 domestic and foreign airlines operate international flights from Haikou or Sanya to more than 20 countries such as Russia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
According to Chen, between 2003 and 2007, the annual growth of foreign tourists to Hainan was 20 percent-30 percent, and the island expects to maintain this growth rate for at least several more years.
It's also very convenient for foreigners to come to Hainan Island. Tourist groups of five people or more from 21 countries such as the United States, Canada, Russia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Singapore are granted visa-free access and can stay up to 15 days there. Other tourists from these countries can get visas on arrival and the procedure only takes about 20 minutes on arrival. According to Chen, it is hoped the number of countries granted visa-free access to Hainan Island will reach 26 in the next one or two years.
Besides air routes, Haikou and Sanya also have been added as ports of call by international cruise companies. Carnival and Royal Caribbean from the United States and Star Cruises from Malaysia have all opened regular routes via Hainan.
There are four duty-free shops in Haikou, Sanya, Qionghai and Wanning, facilitating shopping for international tourists.
To establish itself an international tourist resort, Hainan also faces a lot of challenges. According to Chen, because of its late start, Hainan still lags behind Hawaii and Phuket Island in Thailand in terms of management levels and supporting facilities. The management mechanism and the quality of professionals need to be improved, he said.
"In future development, Hainan should catch up with international practices in terms of tourism management mechanism and supporting facilities, such as product promotions, language environment and personnel training," said Chen.
Li Baiqing, Vice Mayor of Sanya, said that compared with other famous international tourist islands such as Hawaii, Bali and Phuket, Hainan still faces problems of low international recognition, low planning level, few high-quality products, small industrial scales and imperfect supporting facilities.
According to Li, Bali Island, whose land area and population are less than 20 percent and less than 40 percent, respectively, of Hainan, receives over 1.5 million foreign tourists annually, with sales revenue exceeding $2 billion. In 2007, Hainan Island hosted only 750,000 overseas tourists with a sales revenue of $300 million.
"To establish the tourism industry as the core pillar industry, Hainan must make its planning and construction in accordance with the standards of international tourist destinations and improve its tertiary industry with tourism industry at the core," Li continued.
The first target of Hainan is that by 2012, an international tourist island will be established and foreign tourists will account for more than 10 percent of the total tourists. According to Chen, the HPTB aims to increase the percentage of overseas tourists to at least 30 percent after 2012, ensuring Hainan's reputation as a complete international tourist destination.