Hainan province will upgrade cruise ship and tourism facilities to enhance the travel experience to the Xisha island group in the South China Sea, a senior official said.


Since tours to Xisha opened on April 28 last year, the Coconut Princess, the only cruise ship that travels to the islands, has made 14 voyages, carrying more than 2,000 domestic tourists, according to the provincial tourism development commission.


Xisha tours are open only to Chinese so far, and experts said many more Chinese want to see China’s southernmost city.


"We need larger cruise ships to meet surging demand from across the country," Lu Zhiyuan, director of the commission, said during the recently concluded annual session of the provincial people’s congress.


Improving the quality of tours to Xisha was also mentioned in the provincial government report released on Feb 9.


Jiang Dingzhi, governor of Hainan, said the province will "work to expand Xisha tourism and improve its quality".


Chen Bo, deputy general manager of the Hainan Strait Shipping, operator of the Coconut Princess, told Xinhua News Agency that the company plans to have a new cruise ship in service this year.


The new vessel will be about twice the size of the Coconut Princess, Chen said without revealing details.


"With the new vessel, tourist numbers to the Xisha island group will increase," Lu said.


Currently, it takes about 20 hours for the Coconut Princess to voyage from Haikou to Yongxing Island, the largest island in the Xisha island group. The cruise can carry about 200 passengers.


Most tourists eat and sleep on the vessel as facilities on the islands are being upgraded and their fragile environment is protected.


Xiao Jie, Sansha’s mayor, said more attention is being paid to building infrastructure in the country’s youngest city.


Sansha city was founded in July 2012, and administers about 2 million square kilometers of territorial waters and the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha island groups in the South China Sea.


Xiao said earlier this year that infrastructure projects including ports and an airport expansion will be a priority.


A new supply ship, Sansha No 1, will make its maiden voyage in October, Xiao said.


The city has only one supply vessel, Qiongsha No 3, to bring fresh water, food and other necessities. It made 76 trips last year, carrying tens of thousands of tons of fresh water, food and construction materials for Yongxing Island, according to the Sansha government.


SOURCE: ecns.cn


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