China’s southernmost city of Sanya, Hainan province, will seek to exploit its unique cultural heritage, rather than simply build luxury hotels, as it tries to draw more international visitors, a senior local leader has said.

With a cultural heritage protection center set up in March, the tropical tourism hub is set to boost subsidies for the aging bearers of its intangible cultural heritage, including, and most notably, those of the Li ethnic group, which boasts a 3,000-year-old aboriginal oral culture, said Xu Zhenling, Sanya’s vice-mayor.

The ethnic group, of which Xu herself is a member, has seen its numbers shrink by about 8 percent in Sanya in the past decade. The Li people now make up about 30.5 percent of the city’s 685,000 residents, according to the 2010 Census.

Aboriginal cultures should become the cultural backbone of Sanya, Xu said in an exclusive interview. Concerns are mounting over a potential tourism bubble in the city, which has 60 four-star-plus hotels and dozens more in the pipeline.

Sanya is the crown jewel of Hainan province, the first mainland region to launch tax rebates upon departure for overseas tourists last year. The policy, which made Hainan the world’s fourth duty-free zone after Okinawa island in Japan, Jeju island in South Korea and the Matsu and Kinmen islands of Taiwan, has given a tremendous boost to its economy.

And in Sanya, where 67 percent of its 28.4-billion-yuan ($4.5 billion) revenue relies on tourism, problems in the industry "are the absolute top priority" for local leaders, Xu said.

"Much remains to be done for us in integrating culture with tourism," she said, adding that above all else, most visitors seek a city’s cultural attractions.

Shi Baoxiu, 62, a prominent photographer from Shaanxi province invited by officials in Sanya to join a local promotional photo shoot over the weekend, agreed.

The fundamentals of human life – food, folk and fun in Sanya, and the ways in which they differ from the rest of the world, ought to become a core component of local tourism, he said.

Hainan has been striving to become an international tourism destination, but foreign visitors accounted for a mere 2.7 percent of tourists to the island last year. That number stands at 5 percent for Sanya, where almost half of foreign tourists are from Russia, said Zhou Chunhua, deputy director of the city’s tourism development commission.

The city has taken measures to encourage more airlines to fly in. Taiwan’s Transasia Airways Corp recently announced it would open two weekly flights between Taoyuan, in northern Taiwan, and Sanya from May 31, Hainan Daily said.

The government needs to mobilize tourism companies and outside capital to help promote local aboriginal and folk cultures, Xu said.

"We need more indigenous characteristics, instead of golf resorts and yacht clubs. Promoting Hainan to the world does not necessarily mean bringing the world to Hainan, and relocating aboriginals to make way for luxury hotels and greeters with trained smiles," said Dai Guofu, board chairman of Monkey Island Tourism Development in Hainan’s Lingshui county.

SOURCE: China Daily


Editorial Message 

This site contains materials from other clearly stated media sources for the purpose of discussion stimulation and content enrichment among our members only. does not necessarily endorse their views or the accuracy of their content. For copyright infringement issues please contact