"I've visited many places all over the world, but Sanya gives me a great feeling. Sanya's beach is very relaxing, and the tourist services are great," said Alexandra, a woman from Nizhnevartovsk, Russia, while dining with her friend Valentina in downtown Sanya, Hainan province.

It was the fourth day since they arrived in Sanya, and they said they had fallen in love with this tropical island.

"My hometown also has palm trees and sea, but I love the coconut trees and sea in Hainan," said Valentina, from the Russian resort of Sochi, adding that she loves Hainan's tropical fruit, including coconuts and mangoes.

According to the Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission, the island received 814,600 overseas tourists in 2011, with 227,600 of them coming from Russia, a 53.3 percent increase year-on-year.

As a result, Russia has become the biggest overseas market for Hainan tourism.

In the first quarter of 2012, Hainan received 208,300 visitors who stayed overnight, and Russian visitors accounted for about 25 percent. "I love Sanya," said Violetta Slobozhanina, a 29-year-old from Russia.

"The weather, the sunshine, the beach … everything in Sanya attracts me so much. Sanya is like my second hometown."

Unlike other Russian visitors, Slobozhanina has stayed in Sanya for five years, and is working as a client manager at Hainan Zhujiang International Travel Agency's Sanya branch.

Slobozhanina's boss, Andrey Ivanov, general manager of the travel agency, is also from Russia.

In 1994, Ivanov visited Sanya for the first time. "Since I stepped out of the airplane, I fell in love with this land immediately and wanted to be a pioneer in the Sino-Russian tourism market," he said.

Ivanov has a long-lasting connection with China. His father is Chinese, and Ivanov married a Chinese woman. Ivanov, who studied Chinese at Moscow State University and is an experienced tour guide, has designed many routes for Russians traveling to Hainan province, and translated tourism brochures into Russian.

Ivanov has lived in Sanya for nearly 20 years. He received the Friendship Award from the Chinese government in 2009 for his contribution to boosting the tourism industry between China and Russia.

SOURCE: Xinhua

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