[photopress:hotels_hainan.jpg,full,alignright]Hainan today styles itself on Hawaii and aims to become a luxury destination with several high-end resorts opening up for business.
April alone saw the Ritz-Carlton and Singapore-listed Banyan Tree opening resorts. The Mandarin Oriental follows in late 2008.
All of this hotel activity marks a huge change for Hainan, which until recently was known in China as a place for cheap-and-cheerful package tours, and little known abroad except in Russia, South Korea and Japan.
The Banyan Tree Sanya’s general manager, Peter Pedersen said, ‘Sanya is one of the real new tropical destinations in Asia, and in China in particular it is the only tropical island. It’s becoming more and more in demand for both the local market and the international tourist market. It makes a perfect spot. The resort’s pool villas are RMB5,000 ($716) a night.
Hoteliers say the market is ripe for the move upscale.
Michel Goget, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Sanya said, ‘It’s going to enhance the image of Sanya as not only being a good touristic destination but also now to capture elite travelers. Not only from the mainland, but from the world.’
While most tourists to Hainan are mainland Chinese — 18 million last year against just 750,000 overseas visitors — the government is working hard to attract affluent foreigners.
Provincial tourism bureau head Zhang Qi said last month that the goal is to ‘within five years, attract 20 famous international hotel management groups, and make the number of five star, international-standard resorts rise to 60 or more.’
[photopress:hotels_hainan_scenery.jpg,full,alignleft]This may be a hope too far especially if the price of air travel zooms. Then there is the problem of visas. In Thailand and most other places in Asia you do not need them. You do for China. Sanya has a large airport but flights are limited mainly to domestic destinations.
Tourists say they love the scenery, the sea, the weather and the beaches. But, at the moment, that is all there is.
Still, the potentially huge Chinese market is a major draw for the resorts, which hope to leverage on the millions of people who have benefited from the country’s economic boom and are increasingly adopting Western lifestyles and aspirations.
Banyan Tree’s Pedersen said, ‘Some of the estimates I’ve seen suggest 450 million middle class Chinese in 10 years from now. I think Sanya has a huge potential.’ Which needs some work on the infrastructure if that potential is to be realized.