China is mapping out a plan for developing tourism on the Xisha Islands, an official said on Friday.

Located 330 kilometers southeast of South China’s Hainan province, the Xisha Islands are one of the four big island groups in the South China Sea, together with the Dongsha, Nansha and Zhongsha islands.

"Working together with the National Tourism Administration, we are designing a specific plan to open the Xisha Islands to tourists," said Wang Rulong, an official from the policy and regulation division of the Hainan tourism development commission.

The plan will spell out policies for industrial distribution, environmental protection of the uninhabited islands and other important factors related to the development of tourism in the islands, Wang said.

There is as yet no detailed timetable for carrying out the plan, he said.

"Our tourism development plan for the Xisha Islands will be in accordance with our country’s diplomatic strategy," Wang said.

Former deputy director of the National Tourism Administration, Zhang Xiqin, who is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said that the development of the Xisha Islands is "not simply an exploration of travel resources, it’s more about safeguarding sovereignty over these islands".

"Personally, I think it is very necessary to open the Xisha Islands as a tourist destination," Zhang said. "Allow our citizens to step on the Xisha Islands and they will have a stronger feeling that the Xishas and Nansha Islands are indispensable parts of China."

Zhang said that traveling to the Xisha Islands might be inconvenient at present as there are no civil airlines or cruise boats to connect the islands to other parts of China.

"However, if our government attaches more importance to developing tourism on these islands, this will no longer be a problem," he said.

Wang Xuan, a Beijing resident, said he is looking forward to traveling to the Xisha Islands.

"The Xisha Islands are so mysterious, and since they are untouched by pollution, the scenery must be breathtaking," he said.




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