Sanya overhauls tourism market after price-gouging scandal
South China’s city of Sanya, Hainan province, has once again taken the spotlight, as senior officials from the island province vowed to crack down on the price-gouging that has tainted the beach city’s reputation as a paradise for tourists.
"We shall show zero tolerance to those black sheep in the tourism market in Sanya," Hainan Deputy Governor Jiang Sixian said.
Jiang, also the Communist Party chief of Sanya, said the city administration is overhauling the tourism market in Sanya and will not let the people down.
Some tourists visiting the beach city during the traditional Chinese Spring Festival holiday complained that they were overcharged "extremely irrationally."
Luo Di, who works for a Beijing-based real estate agency, wrote on China’s popular microblogging site Sina Weibo that his friend was charged 4,000 yuan (635 U.S. dollars) for a simple three-course meal.
Sanya’s industry and commerce bureau also revealed that a seafood restaurant charged customers 9,764 yuan for a seven-course meal during the holiday.
Internet users vented their grievances online, prompting authorities in Sanya and Hainan to launch a campaign to overhaul the tourism sector.
More than one month after the holiday ended, Hainan officials have continued to be questioned by media and Internet users about the handling of the widespread scams.
While participating in this year’s parliamentary session in Beijing, Jiang reiterated his confidence in eradicating fraudulent behaviors in Sanya.
In the meantime, he also pointed out the difficulties the city is facing.
During this year’s Spring Festival holiday, Sanya received about 500,000 tourists, mainly thanks to its warm weather, sea and sand.
The glut of tourists brought enormous pressures to the tropical city of no more than 700,000 residents.
Almost all prices, from accommodation to commodities for daily use, were hiked due to the rising gap between supply and demand, Jiang said.
Moreover, the entire province, not just Sanya, faces similar problems throughout the winter, as a large number of people, usually from China’s northern areas, flock to Hainan to dodge the cold weather.
According to a survey by Hainan’s political advisory body, about 450,000 such tourists go to Hainan each winter season.
Some local residents have complained about how the rush of tourists affects their daily lives.
A microblog user with the screen name "Tina" wrote that hospitals and supermarkets are flooded with visitors in winter. "It is like a nightmare, especially during the Spring Festival holiday, when prices on almost everything soar."
In other seasons, however, many apartments in the newly-built communities are empty, posing risks to community management.
Wei Liucheng, Hainan’s former Communist Party chief, said Sanya is going through "growing pains," as it still lacks sufficient infrastructure and public services.
Over the next 10 years, China plans to invest 352 billion yuan into making Hainan into a top international tourist destination by 2020.
But critics say that while much of the money is for infrastructure, more needs to be done to improve services as well as the island’s credibility.
"Frankly speaking, there is a long way to go before we build Sanya into a real tourism paradise," Jiang said.
"But we will make substantial efforts so that the tourism market will be improved by the next Spring Festival holiday," he said.