China / Society

Hainan looks to boost visitor numbers

By Su Zhou and Huang Yiming in Haikou (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-02 08:05

Hainan province, with its warm climate, tropical forests and natural beauty, aims to remake itself as a global tourism destination by the end of the decade.

This goal will be achieved by expanding duty-free shopping zones, improving international transport links and introducing more activities catering for tourists, Governor Liu Cigui said as he delivered a government work report in the capital Haikou.

According to a draft of Hainan's 13th Five-Year-Plan (2016-20), more than 80 million tourists - including 1.2 million from overseas - are expected to visit the island in 2020, with total tourism revenue set to surpass 100 billion yuan ($15.2 billion) by then.

The goal of making Hainan an "international tourism island" was set in 2010. However, the province has experienced three years of consecutive declines in visitor numbers since a peak of 33.2 million in 2012.

A lack of international direct flights and limitations on visa-free policies were two of the reasons given for these declines by Sun Ying, director-general with Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission.

"Only three countries have direct flights to Hainan. There will be two more added this year, but this is far from enough," she said. "We also offer a visa-free policy to tourists from 26 countries, but this policy is only for group travelers."

Despite facing fierce competition from neighboring tourist destinations in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, Sun remains upbeat about the future.

"Hainan is as good as, or even better than, surrounding islands when it comes to its scenery and ecosystem," she said, adding that all it was lacking was "the level of service, internationalized environment and standardized tourism products".

Liu Xiaoli in Haikou contributed to this story.

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