As China's only tropical city, Sanya has become a favourite spot for destination weddings and honeymoons. A typical wedding has 'somewhere between 50 and 200 guests in the cooler months, from October to March', says Paul Jackson, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Sanya.
For Hong Kong couples, a wedding in Sanya can actually save money. 'If many family members come from China, [Sanya] can be more cost-effective than Hong Kong,' says Sonya Yeung, founder of Bliss Creations, a luxury destination wedding planning company.
When Matthew Stinson, a Tianjin-based American educator, photographer, and freelance writer, and his wife decided on a tropical honeymoon, they chose Sanya because it was 'convenient and cheaper than more distant islands'.
While most guests come from the mainland, up to 20 per cent come from Hong Kong and elsewhere. For the Ritz-Carlton, a typical guest 'wants to create a special event and express gratitude to his friends and family while showing the world how powerful he is', says Michel Goget, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton and chairman of Sanya's Hotel Association.
Western couples tend to choose Sanya because 'one of them has family from China, they're cost-conscious and want something outdoors', Yeung says. That was true for an American-Chinese couple Cameron and Qian Roth. 'We decided it would be fun to visit southern China and we had heard that Hainan was the 'Hawaii of China'.'
At the high-end, 'one gentleman flew in 1,000 people, inviting his entire village and the village of the bride's parents', Goget recalls.
Mundane details also stand out. 'The young guys decorate mopeds with bright lights and blasting loudspeakers, then drive around at night with a girlfriend on the back,' Cameron says.
Service is a calling card for local resorts. When one guest dislocated his kneecap, 'the Mandarin Oriental staff were extremely helpful and offered my wife and myself care and assistance'.
At the Ritz-Carlton, a staff 'romanceologist' helps couples plan the ideal trip to ensure 'their own perfectly personalised honeymoon', Goget says.