Sanya, the seaside resort in South China’s Hainan Province, is renowned for its picturesque scenery, vibrant culture, green environment and rich culinary delights.
For a group of 20 young people from countries including the United States, Thailand, Greece and South Korea, exploring Sanya as part of a “Travel the World, Stay in Sanya” tour – organised by the Sanya Tourism Board (STB) and the Shanghai Daily – meant experiencing the unique charm of the area, taking in the city, maritime activities and customs of the Li and Miao ethnic minorities, as well as duty-free shopping and exploring the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port.
The visitors visited numerous beach areas, including the Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest, which boasts a pristine environment and a rich diversity of plant species that has helped it become known as a “natural oxygen bar”. They also visited the fishing port of West Island, Hainan’s largest aboriginal island, and experienced the surf at Houhai Bay.
The group enjoyed a show about Sanya at the scenic Romance Park, as well as visits to Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City and Bohou Village. They also visited Tianya-Haijiao, west of Sanya, which has become a popular wedding destination.
In addition, the visitors experienced the region’s cuisine, sampling Sanya’s signature dishes such as coconut chicken and seafood, as well as local handicrafts such as coconut leaf hat weaving and clay painting.
“Everything I saw here – the people, the environment – gave me the best impression I could have for a holiday,” said Panagiota Ntourma, a visitor from Greece. “The romantic play gave me a glimpse of Sanya’s culture, and the costumes are very beautiful.” She adds that the local people were welcoming and the duty-free prices and shopping environment were also good.
“I will definitely recommend this place to my friends and family, and I have already promoted it on social media. I will be back.”
Cole Henry from the USA enjoyed the cultural show and surfing. “There are a lot of things around nature in Sanya, which is what I like the most. I’d like to come back and do some more hiking,” he said, adding that the coconut milk and coconut chicken hotpot were culinary highlights.
Sanya is mainland China’s only tropical coastal tourist city, with a tropical climate, ocean views and high-end resorts that have led to comparisons with Hawaii.
The island is not only a popular destination for international tourists, but also a place where many foreigners choose to settle. Francesco from Sardinia, who works as an executive chef at the Fairmont Sanya Haitang Bay, describes Sanya as his second home. “For me, Sanya and Sardinia are two parts of my heart. I love the sea, the food, the sunshine, the temperature and the local ingredients. It’s a dream to move here”.
Korytova Anastasiia, who is from Russia and has been working with the Sanya Tourism Board for more than three years, says Sanya’s traditional Chinese culture and the culture of the Li and Miao people are fascinating to explore, adding that the Hainan Free Trade Port offers excellent job prospects for foreigners who want to stay.
Sanya’s international business environment is also attracting foreign investors, including Hungarian Akos Ulrich, who has set up his own company there and is now preparing to launch a hospitality business.
“Sanya is developing every day. If I just look around the Haitang Bay area, the city area… new projects, new shopping malls and new entertainment venues are bringing new overseas tourists to Sanya,” he says.
The group’s feedback reflects the attractiveness of Sanya as a tourist destination, while the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port appeals to young professionals from around the world.
The STB adds that Sanya has become one of China’s most popular domestic destinations, and its success is setting a benchmark for the recovery of the tourism sector, paving the way for further growth.
The board, which has been upgrading the province’s facilities and services for the sector, says it will step up efforts to promote Sanya as a young, international city to increase its international competitiveness in attracting overseas tourists.