Cruise tourism is booming in Sanya, which has seen a sharp increase in the number of visiting ships and passengers since the beginning of this year.
The numbers are set to grow even more with the return of Star Cruises this November.
In the first five months, cruise ships made 114 calls at the port, bringing in more than 80,000 visitors, according to Sanya's customs department.
Both figures are higher than for the whole of last year.
The growth is attributed to improved infrastructure at the Sanya Phoenix International Cruise Terminal on Phoenix Island near Sanya Bay.
Since its opening in November 2007, the terminal has handled 474 calls, made by 17 vessels, with 550,000 passengers, making it the busiest port in China. The terminal now has an 80,000-tonne-class berth. To cope with rising demand, it plans to add one 100,000-tonne-class berth, two 150,000-tonne-class berths, and one 225,000-tonne-class berth within the next few years.
When completed, the terminal would be able to berth six cruise ships of 30,000 to 250,000 tonnes simultaneously, with an annual passenger handling capacity of more than 2 million. 'Sanya is an important port of call in China due to the rich geographical and natural resources in Hainan,' says Michael Goh, senior vice-president of sales, Star Cruises.
'It is attractive to tourists and full of resources. It has similar latitude and climate as Miami, and can reach many overseas ports within 24 hours.'
Star Cruises has a long history in Sanya, having made more than 210 calls to the city since 1995 with its five cruise ships.
It was also the first international cruise line that home-ported in Sanya, with the deployment of its 51,039-tonne SuperStar Aquarius to the city from November 2011 to March this year, before returning to Keelung in Taiwan, calling at various destinations in Okinawa, Japan.
SuperStar Aquarius will return to Sanya in November for a second home-port deployment.
Goh says its Sanya programmes last year were well received and that the company has decided to return this year with a number of new itineraries. 'Feedback from our guests last year guided us to enrich our products, such as onboard dining, shopping and entertainment offerings, according to their preferences,' he says.
With its tropical weather, Sanya is a popular cruise destination during the winter season in Asia. SuperStar Aquarius will offer two- and three-night cruises from Sanya to Halong Bay and Da Nang in Vietnam, with various shore excursions. This deployment will include cruises from Sanya to Hong Kong.