The expanding yachting industry in China has helped stoke the demand for yacht-driving courses in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.

Guangzhou Maritime College, one of two schools to offer instruction in the subject, saw enrollment in the courses start to pick up quickly in 2010, said Li Dimin, a dean of the college.

When started in 2006, the program recruited about four students in one session and is training a dozen in the current one.

More than 300 people, after attending 28 sessions at the college, have obtained yacht-driving licenses.

"It is obvious that the demand for yacht drivers has become strong in cities around Guangzhou, such as Zhongshan and Shunde in Foshan," Li said.

"In the beginning, we thought that yachting was a kind of luxury consumption. But then, people started to change their minds and saw yachting as a source of employment. It's like a driver's license. Before, only rich people were applying for it. But now many people are doing that."

In the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong alone, there is a potential demand for 100,000 yacht drivers, Li said, citing an industry estimate.

Among those who have taken the course on yacht driving have been yacht owners — who make up more than half of the students — those wanting to work as yacht drivers, those working in maritime design and manufacturing and managers of yacht clubs, said Wang Xinhui, another dean.

To ensure the quality of the training, the college has decided to limit the number of trainees who can enroll in each session to 20.

Guangdong is well positioned to develop a leisure boating industry. It has a thriving coastal tourism industry, a high per capita GDP, and is close to Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, which have strong yachting markets, according to a plan released last October by the provincial transportation department.

At the end of 2010, Guangdong had eight yacht clubs and six other yacht docks in coastal cities. Five yacht clubs were under construction at the time and those will give the city an additional 1,800 berths when they are completed.

The number of yachts in use in Guangdong is expected to exceed 8,000 by 2015. The number of yachts from outside Guangdong that are registered in or visiting Guangdong is predicted to reach 2,000 by that year.

To attract tourists to the seaside, the Guangdong provincial government plans to build four yacht bases and two international cruise ports in the province by 2020, according to plans released earlier this year.

Authorities in Guangdong and neighboring Hong Kong and Macao are working to ease barriers to yacht travel among those places.

The State Council announced in 2009 that regions with the appropriate resources will receive support to develop cruise and yacht tourism.

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