Portugal, Bali, or maybe towards the USA? Finding the perfect travel destination sometimes resembles the search for the needle in the haystack. It can’t be too crowded, but also not too far away from civilization. Sports opportunities would also be nice.
A destination that’s becoming more and more popular for surfers – even among beginners – is the Chinese island of Hainan, in the southwest of the country.
“China wants to promote tourism”
“Hainan’s climate is very tropical. It’s comparable with the Mediterranean for Northern Europeans, or Florida and Hawaii for Americans,” says Jason Liu, founder and CEO of the tourism news portal Tripvivid.com.
According to Hainan’s tourism office, about 53 million visitors came in 2015, and only 358,200 international guests. By 2020, 1.2 million foreigners are predicted to have come to Hainan.
A trend that, in Liu’s view, will continue to markedly climb with the help of the Chinese government. “China is very concerned about promoting tourism because, in contrast to the other industrial sectors, this industry is still growing by the double digits. So they’re searching for alternatives to the productive industries,” says Liu.
Water sports on vacation: surfing, kayaking, SUP
This is also supported by the fact that the entire province of Hainan is a special economic zone, featuring very low to no taxes at all for investors, making the island the “most broadly developed travel destination in China.”
A good foundation for a country that’s fueling the travel trend with an ever more wealthy middle class, and where “travel is definitely becoming a new lifestyle.” A lifestyle that’s especially discovering water sports. A topic that used to be inaccessible for Chinese in the past, the interest in sports like stand-up paddling, surfing, and kayaking at multi-segment sports trade fair ISPO SHANGHAI is immense.
In order to fulfill the ambitious forecasts for foreign tourists, for the first time there have been direct flights to Haikou since the end of May of this year. The island’s capital city receives flights from Rome with Hainan Airlines two times a week.
In addition, entry is becoming “completely problem-free; a normal tourist visa is enough for island travelers,” according to Liu. Entry is even easier for couples and groups of less than five people. Here applies the regulation that says a “landing visa” filled out at the Haikou airport is enough for a stay of up to 15 days.
“We’re destroying historical sites and the environment”
Recommended especially are the beaches in the south of the island, above all the coasts east of the surfing mecca Sanya. That the waves meet professional standards is proven by the fact that the World Surf League (WSL) and the International Surfing Association (ISA) have already held surfing contests in Riyue Bay.
As positively as Tripvivid CEO Liu sees the opening up of Hainan, he also brings up one point of criticism. That’s because more tourists naturally means more available beds and hotels – and this expansion isn’t always carried out particularly sustainably.
“The previous business model has to change, because it’s still very superficial,” warns Liu, “The business is developing too quickly, and we’re destroying too many historical sites and the environment. We have to find a way to make cultural heritage interesting for the young generation – for the Millennials.