IDEAL RESORT: With luxurious hotels, a flat beach, tranquil seawater and a mild climate, Yalong Bay is an ideal holiday resort for swimming and sunbathing (WEI YAO)
A favorite resort for lovers in Sanya might be the Deer Looking-Around Park, a good site for dating and having a bird's eye view of the whole city.
There are many scenic spots around Sanya, such as Tianyahaijiao, located on the southwestern coast, which means "the end of sky and the corner of sea," and the Nanshan Temple.
"But more tourists prefer the sunshine and beach to artificial scenic spots in Sanya," said Li Baiqing, Vice Mayor of Sanya.
Sanya boasts three beaches, namely, Yalong Bay, Yuwan Bay and Sanya Bay, with pure white fine sands.
Yalong Bay is the favorite of foreigners who want peace and tranquility during their holidays, though only two decades ago it was a desert where cactus flourished. It's an ideal resort for swimming and sunbathing now, because the bay, surrounded by five small cliffs, has a flat beach, tranquil seawater and an average temperature of 25 degrees centigrade all year round.
"The number of overseas tourists coming to Yalong Bay has increased year after year, hitting about 530,000 last year," said Li. Russian and British tourists ranked first and second, respectively.
To provide first-class accommodations to foreigners, a dozen globally eminent hotels such as Marriott, Sheraton and Ritz-Carlton have invested in Sanya.
At the end of 2007, there were 171 hotels in Sanya, 11 more than the previous year, said Li. They include seven five-star hotels, four four-star hotels and 31 three-star hotels. Sanya's average hotel occupancy rate increased 8.2 percentage points year on year to 61.3 percent last year.
The city of Sanya has expanded from 7 square km two decades ago to 25 square km currently. Two decades ago, there was only one high-ranked hotel, the South China Hotel in Sanya. Today, the South China Hotel is just one of the four four-star hotels.
The government is less influential than the market in Sanya, because the market gave the city the original impetus to develop, said Li, adding that a majority of the investment in the tourism market in Sanya is private or overseas capital.
The function of the government in Sanya is to guide the market and promote the city's image, Li explained. For example, the government contributes only 30 percent of the fixed asset investment every year and injects the money only into infrastructure construction. Overseas and private capital provides the remaining 70 percent for the effort to turn Sanya into an international holiday resort.
Sanya hosted the annual Miss World contest between 2003 and 2007, which, according to Li, was "a choice made by the market."
Quite a number of bars have sprouted in Sanya in the past decade. There are two kinds of bars-those affiliated to luxurious hotels for visitors, especially foreigners, and those in commercial areas for local residents.
"Citizens got used to spending leisure time with friends over a glass of wine due to the development of the tourism industry in Sanya," said Li.
Sanya is linked with the outside world by railway, expressway and air services. The passenger and cargo transport volume in Sanya increased by 14.5 percent and 20.7 percent year on year, respectively, to 22 million people and 11.04 million tons last year. The Fenghuang Airport alone received 5.31 million passengers last year, up 36 percent from the previous year. The number of taxis in service exceeded 1,000 last year, an increase of 800 from 2002.
The construction of a light railway from Sanya in the south to the provincial capital city Haikou in the north is underway. It will make transportation throughout the province much more convenient when it is launched by 2012.
The annual per-capita disposable income for urban residents in Sanya increased 13-fold in the two decades from 1987 to 2007.