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UPDATED: January 29, 2010 NO. 5 FEBRUARY 4, 2010
Hainan Gears Up

Hainan, the southernmost province and the second largest island in China, is well known as a fascinating tropical locale with blue seas basking in beautiful sunshine. At the end of 2009, the island's plan to build it into an international tourist destination was approved by the Central Government. The state is to give greater support and set in place favorable policies for Hainan to fuel its opening up and development.

Hainan, also the largest special economic zone in China, is greeting the new development opportunity warmly.

The 34,000-square-km island is situated at the same latitude as Hawaii. Sandy beaches take up 50-60 percent of the 1,528-km-long coast. In most areas, Hainan appeals to travelers because of its calm seas, clear water and agreeable weather all year long. The annual average temperature stays in a range between 23 and 25 degrees Celsius, which is most suitable for swimming in the sea and sunbathing along with their associated activities.

Hainan hosts abundant minerals, and is home to a large variety of animals and plants. The coastal areas boast enticing scenic spots. A 1.2-million-strong population of ethnic minorities such as the Li, Miao and Hui groups, account for one seventh of Hainan's inhabitants and add unique and colorful character to the island.

But, in spite of being a travel resort with many advantages, Hainan's economy is far from developed. For a long time, it has lacked a set of clear and decisive guidelines and measures to spur local development. In the 30 years since China's reform and opening-up policy was adopted in 1978, Hainan has explored many ways—among them industry, agriculture, trade and tourism-oriented models—in hopes of an economic takeoff. Eventually, it set up a long-term development goal to build the island into a world-class recreational tourist destination with a unique natural environment.

Though the guidelines are clear, challenges remain. Hainan will be faced with fierce international competition. Compared to high-profile tourist spots such as Hawaii, Bali and Phuket, Hainan is less known to foreign travelers. Hainan is also plagued by a relatively low level of planning and poor basic infrastructure. There are few impressive tourism programs on the island, and the industry catering to tourists is small in scale, operates at a low level and provides inadequate service quality.

As the saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day." World-famous travel destinations such as Hawaii were not either. But one thing is certain—with robust national economic development going on—Hainan's economy will take off much sooner than it would have otherwise. The island will have no problems building itself into a world-class travel resort with advanced travel facilities, improved services and sound management.

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