HAINAN, China–The tourism sectors of Hainan, China’s famous tropical province, and the Philippines are seen to benefit under economic integration strategy Belt & Road Initiative.
Chen Yibo, deputy director-general of Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission, said the Belt & Road initiative could propel a plan to open direct flights between Manila and Hainan.
”There is a great possibility that direct flight between Manila and Hainan will materialize soon,” Chen told the Philippine News Agency when asked if the Belt and Road Initiative would also spur tourist arrivals between Hainan and the Philippines.
The Belt and Road Initiative, which calls for massive investment infrastructure, trade, and cultural exchanges, was lengthily discussed during the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2017 held last March 23 to 27 in Boao, Hainan.
Chen said tourism is one sector that will benefit from the Belt and Road, also known as One Belt, One Road which was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to integrate the economic development not only in Asia but also part of Europe, Middle East and Africa
”The infrastructures to be built in the countries under this initiative will boost the tourism industry,” Chen told the 15 journalists from South Asia and Southeast Asia who covered the Boao Forum for Asia and visited some famous tourist destinations of Hainan.
Chen said representatives from concerned travel groups and airlines are now discussing a proposal to open direct flight between Hainan and the Philippines.
Like the Philippines, Hainan is famous for its tropical climate, white beaches and clean and sound ecological environment that made the province one of the best places for international conferences like Boao Forum for Asia.
Chen said that while the province achieved an impressive 62 million tourist arrivals in 2016, only 750,600 of them were foreigners.
He said direct flights, including the recently opened Hainan-Phnom Penh and Hainan-Singapore as well as future foreign direct flights, would improve the number of the province’s visitors from other countries.
Hainan province, according to Chen, is also known for its medical tourism, maritime tourism and countryside tourism highlighted by agriculture villages development aimed at improving the lives of the farmers.
Sanya, located in the southernmost of Hainan, remains the province’s top favorite destination primarily due to its well-managed tourism industry and breathtaking tourist spots.
Sanya Tourism Development Commission Kaizhong Ye said Sanya City government has placed massive investments to provide better services particularly security for the tourists as well as environment protection.
Ye said Sanya is called ‘Hawaii’ of China due to its picturesque scenery, beach and hot spring resorts, world’s biggest duty free shopping mall and vast forested land including the famous 15,000 square kilometer Yalong Bay Tropical Rainforest Park.
Sanya received 16 million tourists in 2016 but only 438,083 of them came from other countries, including the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries which delivered a total of 39,700 tourists.
Sanya Vice Mayor Dai Yuming said opening up more direct flights, including Hainan-Manila route, will improve the tourist arrivals not only in Sanya but the whole Hainan province.
”We will not stop exploring best practices to improve and to make our city the best place to visit and spend holiday for the tourists,” he said.
The relationship between China and the Philippines has been revived under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.
According the data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the Philippines, more than 675,700 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines in 2016 or an increase by 37.7 percent compared to the previous year.
In 2016, China has reportedly replaced Japan to be the third largest source of the Philippines’ foreign tourists, next to South Korea and the United States.