Hainan targets beach veterans

BANGKOK, 24 September 2018: Often called one of China’s, best kept secrets, Hainan is embarking on promotional campaigns to draw visitors from Asia who are already tried and tested beach vacation veterans.

The prime targets are international travellers who routinely visit top beach destinations such as Bali, Guam and Phuket.

Hainan wants to convince them to try China’s top holiday island and visa-free travel should maker it an easier sell.

A key incentive is the 1 May visa rule change that made Hainan one of the few destinations in China that offers visa-free travel to citizens of Southeast Asia.

Just a few Chinese destinations offer visa-free entry usually limited to guided tours from certain countries, cruise travel to specific Chinese ports and visa-free stays for airline passengers transiting through east coast cities such as Beijing.

In addition to easier visa rules, Hainan is one of just a few destinations in China that can claim a mild year-round climate and beach resorts that promoters call Asia’s answer to Hawaii.

That might be a bit of a stretch when  Bali and Phuket are brought into the equation, but Hainan’s top beaches do include the white sandy Sanya Bay, the crescent-shaped Dadonghai Beach known for its surfing and para-sailing; and the 7-km-long Yalong Bay, a popular base for scuba diving and home to upscale resorts, and golf courses.

In addition to the beaches, Hainan is promoting its island culture focused on fishing villages, the hilltop park on Luhuitou Peninsula and its Volcanic Crater Park.

Nanwan Monkey Island is the world’s only island simian reserve. Nearby, Sea Turtles 911 has a sea turtle hospital to rescue these precious creatures.

Haikou is home to Xinglong Tropical Botanical Gardens, which covers 400,000 sq km and is home to over 1,200 plant species, including such edible plants as coffee, pepper, cocoa, and durian.

Last year, tourist arrivals increased by 50% to reach 1.1 million international visitors and a positive growth trend has encouraged international hotel groups such as Anantara, Banyan Tree, Conrad, Kempinski, Mandarin Oriental, Park Hyatt, Ritz Carlton and St Regis to brand properties.

The most recent arrival is the Atlantis Sanya, a USD2 billion project that opened this year, owned and managed by the same team that oversees Atlantis the Palm in Dubai.

Hainan’s Atlantis, which is reminiscent of Dubai’s over-the-top luxury, boasts a 52-level tower, underwater suites, and even a scuba-diving lagoon.

Online travel agents offer over 3,000 Hainan vacation rentals and hotel room options. A search of Agoda shows a night at Anantara Sanya Resort and Spa, during October, will cost THB2,253, Banyan Tree, THB7,063 and Sanya Marriott Hotel, Dadonghai Bay, THB2,360.

Out of Bangkok, Agoda’s quotes a ‘recommended’ roundtrip fare on Hong Kong Airlines at THB9,285  to Hainan’s Sanya Phoenix Airport. (No explanation for what constitutes “recommended”.) Perhaps Agoda could explain?

Hainan’s promotions are targeting international travellers, who have already visited tropical destinations such as Bali, Samui, Jeju Island, Okinawa, and Guam.

A newly introduced 30-day visa-free travel for citizens of 59 countries, make it easier to book a holiday break at short notice, while the savings in time and costs involved in obtaining visas would be attractive for families.

The visa-free facility is dependent on travellers booking through a Hainan travel agency, which suggests a traveller, who books online for airlines and hotels, would then have to buy a land tours from a Hainan travel firm to be eligible for visa-free travel.

Hainan 30-day visa-free access – 59 nationalities.

25 Schengen Agreement Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,

15 Other European Countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco.

6 American Countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile.

2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand.

11 Asian Countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar.

(Source: Agoda with additional TTR weekly reporting)