China's southern island province of Hainan unveiled on Friday a blueprint aiming to build itself into an international tourist destination by 2028.
Chen Cheng, Hainan's vice governor, said at a press conference the province would take about 20 years to internationalize its tourism facilities, services, products and improve the environment.
The province will continue to implement its visa-free policies for tourists and open up aviation rights, introduce renowned overseas travel agencies and hotel management corporations, according to the action plans for the long-term goal of a first-class international tourist island.
With an area of 34,000 square kilometers, tropical and subtropical Hainan was established in 1988 as a province and approved as a special economic zone enjoying preferential development policies.
Last year, the island had 18.4 million tourist arrivals, including 750,000 from overseas, reaping 17.1 billion yuan (2.4 billion U.S. dollars) in revenue. The total tourist numbers and revenue were 24 times and 150 times, respectively, greater than those of 1987.
China's State Council, the country's Cabinet, agreed in principle earlier this month that Hainan should make better use of its advantages as a special economic zone to seek opening up and systematic reforms in the tourism industry. It also approved the opening of one duty-free shop each in Haikou, the provincial capital, Sanya, Qionghai and Wanning to provide shopping convenience for foreign tourists.
The State Council also demanded relevant government departments offer great support and help for Hainan's tourism development.
Currently accounting for 14 percent of the island's gross domestic product, tourism has become one of its most promising sectors.
In the past eight years, the number of international flight routes to Hainan has reached 44 from zero. More than 20 countries, including Russia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Britain, now have flights to Haikou or Sanya.
Currently, three major international passenger liners -- Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and Star Cruises -- stop in Sanya.
(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2008)