US$17,200-a-night undersea suites anchor Hainan’s tourism ambitions
At the Poseidon Suite at Fosun Group’s new Atlantis resort in Sanya, several floor-to-ceiling windows in the submerged duplex offer views out into the undersea world of the Ambassador Lagoon, one of the world’s largest open-air aquariums, containing close to 100,000 marine animals.
The 340-square metre (3,660 square feet) suite, which will set its occupants back an auspicious 108,888 yuan (US$17,200) per night, is one of five completely submerged rooms under the lagoon, served exclusively by two lifts.
The 1,314-room sail-shaped hotel, is a replica of similar properties in The Bahamas, Dubai and one being built on Oahu in the Hawaiian islands. It is the poster child for China’s southernmost province of Hainan – known as “China’s Hawaii” – for doubling its annual tourist intake to 2 million to bolster one of the country’s most underdeveloped regions.
Hainan’s government earlier this month unveiled a plan to provide visa-free entry to visitors from 59 countries, the first such rule allowed for a local government on mainland China.
“Hainan is facing an unprecedented opportunity for growth and development,” said Xu Xiaoliang, Fosun’s co-president, during the resort’s opening this recent weekend. “The government’s policies for nurturing the province’s growth were the equivalent of a big fat red envelope for the island.”
For Fosun, the resort is an 11 billion yuan anchor for the leisure division in its eclectic range of businesses, from insurance in Portugal to real estate in China and a cosmetic laser manufacturer in Israel.
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The Shanghai-based conglomerate classifies its businesses as “happiness”, “wealth” and “health.” The first category includes Atlantis and the US$1.1 billion paid in 2015 for control of the French holiday brand Club Mediterranee, as well as a stake in the Canadian entertainment troupe Cirque du Soleil. “Wealth” comprises Fosun’s insurance, financial services and wealth management businesses, while the health businesses spans one of China’s largest pharmaceutical firms and a hospital in Portugal.
Fosun, which grew from a real estate developer and healthcare provider into one of China’s most voracious global asset buyers in a span of 25 years, was among the handful of Chinese enterprises that had to halt their worldwide acquisitions in a government crackdown on borrowings.
Now the company is careful to toe the government line so it could continue to expand its overseas portfolio range from insurers to lingerie maker.
“We insist on doing things that are right, which means things that are in line with the national policy,” Xu said.
Fosun will continue to invest in Hainan and tap into a government largesse to nurture the province, where economic growth had lagged the mainland. Hainan’s 2016 economic output was the fourth-lowest among China’s 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, according to government data. Only the regions of Tibet, Qinghai and Ningxia had smaller economies than Hainan.
The company will focus its investments in healthcare and tourism, Fosun said, without elaborating.
“Hainan will see significant increase in international tourist numbers after the visa free policy, “ said Zhou Ping, deputy director of Hainan Provincial Tourism Development Commission.
The province is going to focus on attracting tourists in international transition destinations including Singapore and Hong Kong, with number of direct flights from overseas destinations to the island also expected to increase, said Zhou.
US among 59 countries granted visa-free access to China’s Hainan
There were 412 air routes between the province and other destinations as of 2017, of which 53 were international connections.
Hainan will launch a sweeping advertisement campaign in Hong Kong this year, and associate with Hong Kong to promote tourism in countries like Russia and Dubai, Zhou said, adding that Hainan will also invite Hong Kong’s internet celebrities and key opinion leaders to visit the island.
“This kind of association is not much before (between Hong Kong and Hainan), but now we are seeing a new mode forming, which is Hainan- Hong Kong could complement each other,” he said.