An aerial view of Dadonghai scenic area, one of the three most popular tropical seaside tourist spots in Sanya, Hainan, on November 28 (DU XIAOHANG)
Hainan is a place of dreams to Wang Yanfen, who went on a long-planned visit to the southernmost province of China, the same latitude as Hawaii, in late November. With its warm weather and beautiful scenery, Hainan, hailed as the "back garden" of China, is welcoming its peak tourism season as winter gets into full swing and temperatures plunge to zero or even lower in the northern part of the country.
In addition to the weather, the hospitality of the local people has also impressed Wang deeply.
"I feel I'm at home, and actually, this is the first time I've come to Hainan," Wang told Beijing Review on the beach of Wuzhizhou Island. The island is a famous tourist destination in Sanya, with the best preserved coral reef and diving conditions in China.
"The hotel staff are very friendly and enthusiastic. Their attitude makes me feel comfortable and respected." Wang said. "This morning, I left my phone in the bathroom. I found out several hours later and then rushed back. With the help of a female cleaner, I was very lucky to find it. Actually, she picked it up and waited for me for hours. It was a touching moment and also left me with a very good impression of this place and its people."
Actually, similar good deeds take place among Hainan's tourism workers every day.
"Ensuring the security of tourists comes first during the development of tourism", said Wu Wenbo, Security Director of Wuzhizhou Island Company. "Through 10 years of effort, Wuzhizhou Island's overall tourist attraction rating has improved from 4A to 5A, the highest level in China's five-tiered evaluation system, which reflects the major progress of our company in pursuing tourism standardization."
A smoking hut on Wu Zhi Zhou Island where a carpet smoking ban has been in place (WEN QING)
The implementation of tourism standardization on Wuzhizhou Island provides a window to the progress of tourism in the whole of Hainan.
Based on local practice, tourism standardization means setting up a network of rules and regulations by combining different national, industry and local standards. Ensuring security is the foremost objective in this effort, and offering a warm and thoughtful service is another key aim. Established rules and regulations serve as the reference for evaluating the quality of facilities and service in scenic spots.
The Hainan Tourism Development Committee launched pilot work in this regard in 2010. Until now, it has approved two demonstration cities and five demonstration enterprises respectively. During the process, Hainan has focused on improving facilities and perfecting service. Through modernizing facilities and improving service, tourism development in Hainan is ahead of that in other areas of China.
For many tourists, traveling is a way to experience and enjoy the local service. As an important objective in the tourism standardization of Hainan, the provision of high-quality service will enhance its competitiveness and accelerate its efforts to build itself into an international tourism island.
For example, information desks have been established in many tourist spots, including Wuzhizhou Island and the Yanuoda Rainforest Nature Park, where tourists' questions can be answered in detail and their requirements met.
According to Wu, during the efforts to promote tourism standardization, his company placed higher requirements on its employees. Enthusiastic service can create a good image for the scenic spot and enhance its competitiveness, he added.
Efficiency is another keyword when evaluating the quality of service. Quick and convenient service reduces tourists' waiting time and can give them a better travel experience. Meanwhile, improving efficiency could enlarge the accommodation capacity of travel companies and increase their income. For example, Sunshine Resort Intime Sanya is a hotel which was identified earlier this year as a model enterprise for implementing tourism standardization by the Hainan Tourism Development Committee. A receptionist at the hotel told Beijing Review that the average customer check-in time should be less than five minutes according to their rules. Having gained a reputation for efficient and enthusiastic service, the hotel now attracts large numbers of tourists, many of whom come from abroad.
Improving transparency of prices is another requirement. In recent years, reports of tourists being fleeced and forced to buy overpriced commodities have been in the spotlight, stirring up heated debate. Such scandals can have a devastating impact on the reputation of a tourist destination. The root cause lies in loose government supervision and malpractices by business people. To prevent such phenomena, Hainan's tourism companies have set up clear price lists in prominent positions, which cover the costs of taxis, recreational games, food and drinks, and other goods and services.
A tourism worker on Wu Zhi Zhou Island receives a diving-keen tourist on November 29 (WEN QING)
"Our company has greatly increased investment to improve our facilities in order to meet standardization requirements," Wu said. "From last year to now, we have spent 60 million yuan ($9 million) to buy two cruise ships and 5 million yuan ($756,000) to improve the conditions of toilets. We are also preparing to invest another 2.5 million yuan ($378,000) to upgrade security check equipment and establish patrols."
With the support of the Hainan Tourism Development Committee, related government departments are prioritizing the provision of supporting funds to promote local tourism standardization, and tourist facilities have been significantly improved.
For instance, free and fast Internet access is available on Wuzhizhou Island. Tourists can easily connect by logging in with their telephone number, which makes it convenient for them to keep in touch with their friends and family.
Moreover, the number of toilets has increased and sanitary conditions are getting better in many tourist attractions. There are clear signs in tourist spots conveniently showing tourists where to find public toilets. Unisex public toilets have also been set up to benefit people with disabilities and others who may require assistance from the opposite gender.
"In the past, the most annoying thing whilst traveling was using toilets, because sometimes I had to wait in a long queue, and the floor was usually dirty and the air was smelly. But the toilets in all the tourist spots I've been to in Hainan are very clean, which made me feel comfortable," said a tourist from Fujian Province, who declined to give his name.
Such progress represents in miniature the overall improvement of facilities in Hainan's tourism industry. From July to August, the Hainan Tourism Development Committee inspected the tourism companies which participated in the standardization pilot scheme. Those that passed the examination could receive cash rewards ranging from 50,000 yuan ($7,560) to 150,000 yuan ($22,682). However, those who failed to reach relevant standards were criticized and required to return the supporting funds previously allocated by the authorities.
As part of the tourism standardization efforts, the pilot companies which have successfully passed inspection will serve as models for others. Following the conclusion of the pilot scheme's first phase, a second set of designated companies are now fully engaged in the process.
The improvements in service and facilities achieved as part of the tourism standardization program could significantly improve the competitiveness of Hainan's whole tourism industry and inject new impetus into the province's economic development, according to Hainan's tourism authorities. The tourism standardization measures could also contribute to Hainan's strategic objectives of building itself into a world-class island resort and eventually becoming a free trade island.
Copyedited by Chris Surtees
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