Developing China's Sanya Into A Top Global Travel Destination

Liu KaiqiangLiu Kaiqiang is the director of Sanya Tourism Association. He recently shared with China Hospitality News his thoughts on the development of the tourism industry, and the meetings, incentive travel, conventions, and exhibitions business in Sanya and on the tropical island of Hainan.

In the light of your working experience, what can you tell us about the development and changes of Sanya hotel industry over the last ten years?
The Sanya hospitality industry has grown rapidly over the last 10 years, especially since the outbreak of SARS in 2003. Due to the divine and fabulous natural resources and climate, many far-sighted investors are confident of Sanya's tourism and real estate opportunities, and are pouring out huge amount of funds to build up high-star luxury hotels. Recently, hotel groups have been formed representing the three regions in Sanya: Yalong Bay, Sanya Bay, and Dadong Bay. Most significantly, with the incessant widening of investment and the elevation of hotel design level, more famous worldwide hotel management companies have located in Sanya, thus reinforcing the internationalization of the hospitality industry in Sanya. Over the last few years the market condition of the Sanya hospitality industry have been improved and enhanced.

Comparing Sanya with island tourist destinations abroad, what are the areas that Sanya needs to improve? What have the Sanya government and the Sanya Tourist Hotels Association done over this period? And what is the plan for the next few years?

Points that need to be improved:
Sanya needs to continue raise the world-wide influence and awareness of the destination, and it needs to publicize the positioning of Sanya as a recognized international coastal resort destination.

The level and quality of hotel hardware in Sanya is close to, or even superior to other well-known coastal resorts around the world. However, the overall tourism blueprint lacks theme parks, leisure-oriented entertainment places and shopping malls.

The overall level of urban services should be improved e.g. medical infrastructure, financial services, and duty-free shopping.

The level of urban management should be enhanced e.g. traffic management, sanitation infrastucture, and citizens' education.

What have the Sanya Government and Tourism and Hotel Association done?
They have maintained favorable communication channels. Hotels and corporations communicate the problems they encounter in the process of tourism development give suggestions about them to the Sanya Government, who then look at the comments and feedback in a positive way and respond by taking action to research and address these issues.

Under the leadership and support of the government, corporations in the Tourism Association actively act on the of marketing map and broaden our products, giving comments and suggestions for the sales and marketing of corporations and the development of the Sanya tourism industry.

Blue print:
Sanya is going to: focus on accelerating the pace of building an international tourism island, actively push the construction of high-end leisure products e.g. high-end resorts, luxury cruise sightseeing, and duty-free shopping malls. Sanya is targeted to become one of the first-choice world-wide coastal destinations in the near future.

At the beginning of 2009 the tourism industry was worried about the financial crisis. Now 2009 is over how do you evaluate the overall performance of hotels in Sanya this year?
In 2009 the Sanya tourism industry did not expand but did steady business. I think that the domestic leisure market ensured the stability of our market. In 2009, under the leadership of the Sanya government, corporations endeavored to elevate the position of the Sanya tourism market; and broadened the development of domestic high-end leisure guests, the overseas market, and the MICE market that were the keys for stability in 2009.

How have you seen Sanya gradually change from a traditional leisure group tourist city to a mature MICE brand destination? How have Sanya hotels progressed and gained experience in this period of growth?
In recent years, Sanya has constantly strengthened the advertising of the city, and refreshed and enhanced city planning. People think that Sanya is becoming more and more modern and high-end. Meanwhile many investors are attracted to enter the Sanya tourism industry and the real estate industry. This continuously advance the class, taste and scale of the Sanya hospitality industry, and also sets a solid path to build mature commercial meeting and incentive travel offerings from which every hotel benefits by the enhanced MICE market. However, Sanya is worried about the scarcity of trained talent and the young talent needed to support the growing hospitality industry, especially in the peak season.

What are your ideas about Sanya's MICE industry over the next 10 years? Regarding MICE market development, in which areas should hotel managements expand their mind-set and develop their potential?
Sanya is encouraging the construction of Hainan international tourism island very forcibly. The city will become a destination for incentive meeting travel from China and from across the world, but our tourism corporations still have to learn more, place more emphasis on training, and become familiar with market conditions in other advanced coastal leisure-oriented destinations around the world, so as to judge where we are superior to them in terms of price, transportation, and services.

What is your opinion of the status of professional managers in the Chinese hotel industry?
As a result of years of effort China possesses experienced, well-trained and professional managers. However for certain reasons, there is a lack of good communication channels for many corporations and their professional managers. On one hand, corporations are eager to recruit professional managers but, on the other hand, professional managers find barriers when seek for a suitable job. To address this embarrassing situation, we should learn from advanced countries by forming a communication platform between professional managers and employers through the efforts of the media and other agents for change.

In your opinion how will Hainan province be developed into an international tourist island?
In every aspect, Hainan tourism industry has ascended to a new level through more than 10 years of rapid development. How best to further push the Hainan tourism economy is becoming a major challenge for people who devote themselves in Hainan tourism. Construction of Hainan international tourism island guarantees a basic platform for the second economy boom of Hainan tourism, and the most important thing is to narrow the gap in terms of software and hardware between us and other advanced coastal leisure-oriented destinations in the world: so as to create new opportunities to boost the Hainan tourism industry.