Hainan, China’s famous island province, is once again attracting the world’s attention as it hosts the Bao Forum for Asia which hosts political, scientific and business leaders. The forum that opened on Sunday will run until April 11. But this year, the village of Bao, located on the east coast of the island, has undergone a makeover to welcome participants and wants to offer them an original stay.
30 years ago, when the island of Hainan became a Chinese province, Bao was a little-known and sleepy fishing village. At the time, it was 1988. And even after the successful organization of the first Bao Forum in the village in 2001, the name of this locality nevertheless remained obscure for many.
Many opportunities have presented themselves on the way to the city for several years. Indeed, the province of Hainan has endeavored to develop tourism and to make this sector of activity the backbone of the island’s economy. The province has established itself as an international tourist destination and in 2016 became the first pilot area in China to offer tours across the province, a typical example of supply-side reform in the tourism sector.
The opportunities have created extremely important periods for the village of Bao which today has about 30 000 inhabitants. Indeed, the town has managed to host a growing number of international events. In 2017, Qionghai, the city to which the municipality of Bao belongs, launched a “flowery city” theme to modernize all tourism activities and services in this sector.
According to local officials, the plan calls for a total of 2.26 million yuan (291 million euros) to be put on the table to help modernize basic infrastructure and beautify the landscapes that the island’s roads cross. Progress is there. Last year, 68 conferences, each with over 500 participants, were held in the town, double the number of the previous year.
Several large companies such as Country Garden Group and Sunac China Holdings will invest 300 million yuan to finance the promotion of the “flowered city” brand.
“It’s worth staying there for several days, especially for the beautiful garden landscapes and rural living environment,” says Chen Caiyuan, a tourist from Hebei. Hotels, supermarkets, restaurants… everything you need is there.”
Sun Ying, director of the Hainan Tourism Development Committee, says the island is changing rapidly.
“To further develop its integrated tourism sector, Hainan is accelerating the construction of tourist towns, character towns, and pretty villages,” Sun explains. He adds that the province will promote rural tourism thanks to the 100 villages of character and 1,000 villages on the island.
Rural tourism in Hainan is also booming. Last year, 9 million tourists visited the rural areas of the island, representing 14% of all visitors and with an increase of 16.8% over the previous year. These tourists brought more than 2.8 billion yuan to the local economy.
Li Jun, deputy secretary of the provincial CPC, explains that “shared farms” will be built to accelerate the development of rural tourism and to provide an enriched travel experience. The Mount Dahuang farm, located in Danzhou in the west of the island, is one of these farms promoted by the authorities.
The 49-hectare farm offers tourists a wide range of outings: lakes, mountains, and forests, but also tastings of 17 farm products to share such as longan, lychees and coconuts. The farm also offers free-range chickens, eggs, and fish to eat in inns built of rose-scented wood.
“For 2,000 yuan, you can own a longan tree for one year. We provide help to look after the tree and make sure it bears fruit. Then, when the harvest comes, we deliver the fruit to those who bought the tree,” explains Lu Guiling, the farm owner.