South China's Hainan Province has issued a series of plans to boost internationalization of its tourist industry, including the establishment of special zones for overseas tourists with unrestricted access to Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.
"The three-year plan to improve tourism internationalization in Hainan (2018-2020)" was issued by the General Office of People's Government of Hainan Province this month and has already been delivered to government departments, cities and counties around Hainan, according to hainan.gov.cn, the official website of the provincial government.
"Hainan plans to rely on two major cities for tourism: Haikou (the provincial capital) and Sanya, and establish designated zones for foreign tourists, where foreigners can use foreign social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube," the document said.
The policy has symbolic meaning, said Zhang Lingyun, director of the Tourism Development Academy at Beijing Union University.
"Just like during the initial stage of the country's reform and opening-up in 1978, special rights and services were given to foreigners to attract them," Zhang told the Global Times on Friday.
"The special services may be first provided at hotels and restaurants receiving foreigners, but it will be gradually extended, and local residents may use Facebook and Twitter as well," he predicts.
Aside from unrestricted access to foreign social media, the document outlines other measures to boost international tourism in the province, such as exploring more flight routes to link Hainan and the world.
The provincial government plans to increase international flights to 100, and at least 70 of them should be direct flights, which mainly cover countries and regions along the Belt and Road, the document said.
Hainan is trying to provide "depart at sunrise, arrive before sunset" services for those major tourist sources. The airports at Haikou and Sanya will be built as round-the-clock customs ports, and the airport in Boao will be upgraded to an international airport. Flight routes over Xisha Islands in the South China Sea will be open to tourists.
By 2020, Hainan plans to increase the number of foreign visitors to two million a year, and will try to bring in 50,000 migrant workers with English language skills from countries like the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Nepal, the document said. The government will issue work visas to those foreign workers.
This will not only attract more foreigners to work and live in Hainan but will also help strengthen cooperation with countries and regions along the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, becoming a model of the B&R initiative, said Liang Haiming, chairman and chief economist of the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute.
"If the policy is sustained, I believe Hainan will become another economic growth engine," he told the Global Times.
This policy serves multiple purposes - keep domestic enterprises that wish to invest in Southeast Asian countries while introducing foreign investment to the province, Liang said.
Developing sports lottery
Hainan will also try to boost the lottery industry to include golf, yacht racing, marathons, boxing, E-sports, tennis, motorsports and horse racing, the document said.
"Developing the sports lottery, like horse racing, can stimulate tourism, just like in Hong Kong. But this requires a transparent and honest management environment, which the government should work on," said Li Hai, director of the Sport Lottery Research Center.
Newspaper headline: Foreign visitors to access FB in Hainan