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Sanya seeks cruise hub status
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The country's southernmost city of Sanya in Hainan province is boosting its ports in a bid to position itself as a major hub for international cruise lines.

The tropical city known for its beach resorts will begin construction of a cruise terminal with a 250,000-ton level berth this year, with a 300 million yuan (US$44 million) investment at the Sanya Phoenix Island International Cruise Terminal, Zuo Zhenghe, director of the office of the Sanya Port Administration Bureau told China Daily.

The Phoenix Island port's first cruise terminal, a 100,000-ton level berth, was put into use on a trial basis in November 2006.

The city also plans to build another 60,000-ton level berth cruise terminal at the port next year, which will expand the number of cruise berths to three, Zuo said.

After completion of the three terminals, the Sanya site is expected to become Asia's largest cruise terminal complex and could accommodate several cruise ships at the same time, said Li Boqing, Sanya's deputy mayor.

International cruise lines Royal Caribbean International and Costa Crociere have agreed to open seven cruise routes that will stop at Sanya, said Chen Lu, general manager of Sanya Phoenix Island Development Co Ltd, the private developer of the port and Phoenix Island's real estate complex.

The city is negotiating with Malaysia's Genting Berhad Company, which owns Star Cruises, the world's third largest cruise operator, for the unprecedented use of Sanya as a homeport for its cruise lines, Chen said.

"It would a big incentive for the city's local travel market to have it serve as the mother port of international cruise lines since high-end tourists will want stay overnight or even longer in the city. That will in turn stimulate consumption in hotels and other tourism industries," Zuo said.

A 200-m high luxury hotel, the first of its kind in the country that is also set to be the tallest building in Hainan, will start construction at the end of this year near the port.

Phoenix Island, connected to the city's downtown area by a bridge, was where the first leg of the 2008 Olympics torch relay began in China.

The project's developer plans to pour 5 billion yuan into the island to develop "comprehensive tourism facilities" for cruise passengers in the next two years, including an Olympic theme park, a high-end shopping mall, a health resort and spa, and a yacht club with 300 berths.

(China Daily February 20, 2009)

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