Hainan province will take the lead in formulating the national standards for yachting, a fledgling industry to be vigorously promoted in the tropical island's spurting efforts to build an "international tourist resort" in 10 years, the top official of the provincial capital said.

The coastal city, surounded by the South China Sea on three sides, will have at least 400 wharfs for recreational vessels by the end of this year, Chen Ci, Party chief of Haikou, told China Daily.

With a coastline that extends 131 km, Haikou will also become the venue for sales, showcasing and manufacturing of yachts of various kinds.

The State Council, or China's Cabinet, unveiled an ambitious guideline on Jan 4 this year, offering policies to help catapult China's southernmost province to a top world tourist resort by 2020.

The Council asked the island to work out yacht management regulations and prepare to serve foreign yachts.

"Developing a yacht economy will serve as a springboard for Haikou to develop its tourism," Chen said.

In line with the guideline, Haikou will set up a team that focuses on yacht industry development and will work with relevant departments to hammer out national standards regarding the industry's expansion, he said.

China's appetite for luxury goods, whether yachts or limousines, has surged despite the global economic downturn. Sunbird Yacht Co, a leading domestic brand that builds yachts in both Guangdong and Hunan provinces, for example, has sold seacraft valued at 300 million yuan ($US44 million) in China and internationally by early November last year, according to company sources.

Despite rising demand among the newly rich for the luxury pleasure crafts, China has yet to enact any statute governing the sales and use of private yachts, or has it made specific rules promoting the yachting industry development, according to the island's tourism officials.

Chen said Haikou got a late start developing its yacht economy compared with other coastal cities, but it has begun with relatively higher standards and its natural surroundings have given it an inside track.

The local government has additionally thrown its weight behind the development.

For example, the city has put together various customs service agencies to help yacht owners clear customs formalities, he said.

The official said Hainan should remain cool-headed and learn from international think tanks in its yachting race to build the island into a premier international tourist attraction.

Since Hainan conceived the "international tourist destination" concept, thousands of travelers have flocked to Haikou and Sanya, another major seaside city in the province, only to find infrastructure and service prices far beyond their capabilities.

On the other hand, the island's residents had hoped construction of an "international tourist destination" would bring them tangible benefits, though they were also worried about soaring prices, including rising housing costs, Chen said.

"So we've got to focus on how to address these challenges, while embracing the opportunities arising from the central government's policies," he said.

Chen, who once studied at Virginia State University, said Haikou is thirsty for international expertise and experience in terms of urban planning, ecological and environmental conservation, as well as leisure industry development, such as yachting, golfing and other outdoor activities.

"Capital is, in fact, not a problem for Haikou but rather, talented people who know how to run businesses is what we really need," he added.


SOURCE: http://en.hainan.gov.cn


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