The duty-free shop in Sanya, Hainan
Hainan, long known as the Hawaii of China, takes on a new identity from tomorrow as a shopping paradise.
But unlike most countries that pitch their shopping to foreign tourists, it is aiming to woo a bigger market – mainland travelers.

The island’s duty-free rebates to foreigners will now be offered to domestic tourists.

A total of 18 items will be exempted from consumption and business taxes and will retail at 70 percent of their original prices.

A mainland tourist will not need to pay taxes on items totaling no more than 5,000 yuan (HK$5,945) for a single trip, and can enjoy duty-free shopping up to twice a year.

The goods include watches, perfume, makeup, pens, eyewear, scarves, ties, clothes, shoes, belts, bags, candies, sporting goods, and leather, woolen and cotton products,

The aim is to attract more tourists to Hainan and boost consumption.

Paul Tse Wai-chun said he does not think the move will affect Hong Kong’s reputation as a shopping paradise in Asia.

The tourism lawmaker said there are still some restrictions in Hainan while Hong Kong has a lot of international brand-name stores that are an attraction for mainland tourists.

"We also provide good customer services," he said.

Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said Hong Kong and Hainan offer different markets for mainlanders. "They come to Hong Kong to buy brand- name products. And they have confidence in the quality of products sold in Hong Kong," he said.

The Hainan arrangement was introduced after Beijing implemented a tax-refund program in January that allows foreign tourists, as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents, to obtain tax rebates of 11 percent.

Local travel agencies said there have been no obvious increase in the number of people joining Hainan tours.

"I think Hainan is a place for sightseeing instead of shopping," China Travel Service general manager Ng Hi-on said.

Lee Chung-ming, a Hong Kong resident, agrees. "Hainan is a beautiful place. I think I would go there for the scenery rather than the tax refund," he said.

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