Many foreigners living in mainland China appreciate the variety of landscapes, weather, customs and food the Middle Kingdom has to offer, but also like to take holidays abroad – if not back in their home countries then perhaps on the beaches of Southeast Asia.
With international borders having been sealed by coronavirus restrictions for the past year and a half, however, the resort city of Sanya, on Hainan Island, the southernmost province of China, has proven to be a valued substitute, and a welcome distraction from the pandemic.
“Before [the pandemic struck] we would have been more intrepid travellers whereas now, we just need somewhere to escape to, recharge and relax,” says Meliosa Gormley, “something that Sanya can definitely offer us.”
The Gormley family – the parents and two children – love to travel within China and to explore their “home city”, Beijing. But an annual escape to an overseas beach resort is usually a must. So, when China closed its borders in March 2020, the Irish family started looking for places in China that could give them that beach holiday feel. They found that Sanya offers more than 20km (12 miles) of beaches as well as an array of activities for families.
Others have made the same discovery. According to the Sanya Tourism Promotion Board, more than 15 million passengers travelled through Sanya Phoenix International Airport in 2020 – fewer than the 20.16 million passengers who arrived in 2019, but a healthy number for a year ravaged by Covid-19 – and 2021 was off to a flying start, with 407,000 arrivals in just the first three days of the year. A whopping 4.5 million tourists visited during February’s Spring Festival, showing support for the government’s aim of having tourism deliver 12 per cent of Hainan’s GDP by 2025, as envisioned in the Provincial People’s Congress’ 14th Five-Year Plan.
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