Hainan bets the farm on golf and yachting

By John Sexton
0 CommentsPrint E-mail china.org.cn, March 20, 2010
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Tan Li, deputy governor of Hainan Province, attends a press conference on the Boao International Tourism Forum on March 18, 2010 in Haikou. [Chen Chao/china.org.cn] 

Hainan, an island province off China's south coast, was long dependent on agriculture and fishing to earn its keep. But already a favorite with Chinese tourists looking for a tropical beach holiday, the island is set to launch itself as an international golf and yachting center.

The provincial authorities have won approval from the Chinese government for an ambitious plan to transform Hainan into an "international tourism island."

According to sources, the central government has agreed to invest 1.7 billion yuan (US$249 million) in Hainan's tourism initiative. And at a press conference on Thursday 18 March, Hainan deputy governor Tan Li said Beijing had authorized Hainan to raise funds on the financial markets.

At the four-day Boao International Tourism Forum being held from 18-21 March, officials are pulling out all the stops to convince visiting media and celebrities that Hainan can compete against rivals such as Bali, Phuket and Hawaii. The highlights of the forum are promotional events to boost Hainan's golf, yachting and real estate industries.

Some say it will be a tough sell. In Imperial times, Hainan was seen as a remote, toxic swamp and a convenient place of exile for officials who had fallen out of favor. During the 1990s the island had a seedy reputation as a center of gambling and prostitution.

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