Tourism holds key to growth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am


While the travel industry in Sanya generally performed well last year, with an increase of about 15 per cent in overnight visitors and tourism revenue, the government and the private sector are seeking ways to boost business, as indications are that the low season may have come earlier this year.

As the southern-most city on the mainland, and with a tropical marine climate, Sanya is a beach destination that is all the rage for domestic travellers, who account for 95 per cent of all visitors to the city, especially during the cooler months from October to March. This has made tourism the most important segment of Sanya's economy, contributing nearly 60 per cent of its gross domestic product of 28.5 billion yuan (HK$35 billion) last year.

However, this year, the low season seems to have started earlier as the city recorded only a modest 7.6 per cent increase in overnight visitors in the first three months, of which visitors from overseas even showed a 3.5 per cent decline.

The uncertainly over the economy caused by the euro-zone crisis is likely to be a factor for the modest growth, coupled with the bad publicity in late January about price gouging among Sanya's seafood restaurants. After initial denials, the tourism bureau acknowledged the problem and has taken remedial steps, but the damage is expected to last much longer.

Last month, Hainan Provincial Tourism Bureau and representatives from hotels, airlines and tourism facilities held a meeting to study ways to develop a new model for the sustained growth of tourism in Hainan, particularly in Sanya.

At the meeting, Chen Tiejun, deputy director of the bureau, said that to boost tourism during the low season, it was important to come up with innovative products, to upgrade lower-end products and to step up sales and marketing.

Hotel representatives urged the city government to make further investments in improving transport infrastructure, and building new facilities and theme parks, helping to broaden the mix of visitors.

It was suggested that, apart from promoting Sanya as a resort destination for families, the city government and the industry should join forces to develop new products such as marine tourism, medical tourism and wedding tours, while hosting major cultural and sporting events throughout the year.

In recent years, Sanya has hosted international cultural and sporting events, such as the Miss World Pageant final, China New Silk Road Model competition, Sanya International Beach Music festival, FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, the round-the-island regatta, round-the-island cycling races and golf tournaments. Sanya has also participated in the Volvo Ocean Race.

The city government hopes these international cultural and sporting events will help Sanya develop into a cultural venue, build a stronger image among visitors and attract the attention of the world's media.

The city also seeks to develop its own culture through the setting up of the Cultural Heritage Protection Centre in March. The centre will play an active role in discovering cultural resources and protecting Sanya's intangible heritage.

Quick Facts

Area 1,918 square kilometres

Population 685,000 (2010)

GDP 28.457 billion yuan

Per-capita GDP 56,269 yuan

Climate Tropical marine climate

Temperature Average 26.5 ?C (highest 35.9 ?C, lowest 13.5 ?C)

Annual rainfall 1,640.3mm

Annual daylight 2,181.3 hours

Average humidity 89 per cent

Total overnight visitors 10.2107 million

Domestic 9.6818 million

Overseas 528,900

Total tourism revenues 16.071 billion yuan

Foreign-exchange earnings from foreign visitors US$308.51 million