GREEN AND BLUE: Hainan kicked off construction on its biggest tourism project—the Wenchang Tongguling Ecological Tourism District (ZHAO YINGQUAN)
ECONOMIC BOOM: Sanya, located in south Hainan, has grown from a small fishing village into a popular tourist destination (CHENG CHUNXIANG)
Crystal-clear seas, year-round sunshine, palm-lined beaches and lavish hotels—Hainan, located in the South China Sea, has never lacked the charisma of a tropical paradise for those looking for a breath of fresh air. All it needed was a chance to shine. And the island may finally be getting that opportunity.
On January 4, the State Council mapped out a long anticipated national blueprint to turn Hainan, once an agricultural island decades ago, into an "international tourism destination," in hopes of luring overseas visitors and bringing in extra income to its vast and underdeveloped countryside.
The goal was to lift tourism to account for more than 8 percent of its GDP by 2015 and more than 12 percent by 2020.
While sun-blessed coast and comfortable accommodations might satisfy the average traveler, those seeking an exceptional experience require much more. That is why Hainan has never spared any effort to make a visit worthwhile for travelers all over the world.
As a boost to its fun factor, the island received a green light to tap into sports lotteries and open more duty-free shops for departing foreign tourists. Duty-free shopping, in particular, was widely considered the strongest perk for the tourism industry and has paved the way for many Asian economies to take off. Hong Kong, for instance, is basking in the glow of a duty-free shopping spree.
The good news is Hainan is playing a swift game of catch-up. On September 1, 2009, Sanya, an economic hub located in the island province's south, opened the island's first duty-free shops outside airports, providing a selection of top-brand cosmetics, jewelry and garments catering to bargain hunters from all over the world.
"Hainan will be more of a complement than a threat to Hong Kong as a shopping paradise, and we have a lot to learn from Hong Kong," said Luo Baoming, Governor of Hainan Province, at a press conference on January 6 in Beijing.
BRIDGING HAINAN: The Century Bridge of Haikou, capital city of Hainan Province. The Chinese Government has vowed to improve the infrastructure of Hainan (ZHANG MAO)
Other stimulative measures included a trial program for cross-border trade involving renminbi (yuan) settlement and support for rural finance, as well as debt issues and share flotation of qualified tourism firms.
In addition, the island's visa exemption scheme will be widened to cover five countries including Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine and Kazakhstan from the previous 21 nations, including the United States, Japan and Canada.
Meanwhile, the Central Government pledged vigorous efforts to improve infrastructure, modern tropical agriculture, the service industry and information technologies that will no doubt bolster the business environment and create thousands of jobs. The government also made it clear that it will build a national oil reserve base in Hainan as part of its strategic energy-stockpiling plan.