Hainan: sand, surf and games of chance

14:42, January 06, 2010      

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The government recently unveiled measures to build South China's Hainan Province into a top international tourism destination by 2020, including opening the gaming industry.

According to a proposal released by the State Council on Monday, the country will introduce international sports and entertainment activities and explore ways to promote local lottery and gaming industries.

It is possible that Hainan may be a trial base for gambling options that could include horse racing, Information Times reported Tuesday.

According to the National Lottery Center, income from lottery sales in Hainan reached 100 million yuan (14 million U.S. dollars) in 2009, the last of the 31 sales centers of the nation.

The government plans to boost tourism-based GDP from 8 percent in 2015 to more than 12 percent by 2020.

Hainan's GDP stood at 145.9 billion yuan (21.36 billion U.S. dollars) in 2008.

"If entertainment elements are not introduced in Hainan, something will be missing in an international tourism destination," Wang Yongsheng of Regional Tourism Development of the Regional Science Association of China, told China Securities Journal.

"Gambling is forbidden in South Korea, but overseas passport holders can gamble in the Walrk Hill in Seoul; this fits the national policies and also meets the entertainment needs of overseas visitors," said Wang.

The government will further extend its favorable visa-free policy to five other nations of Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine and Kazakhstan from the previous 21 nations including the United States, Japan and Canada.

Efforts to push forward a trial program involving cross-border trade in Renminbi settlement on the island and encourage qualified tourism firms to get listed in the stock market are also on the agenda, according to the proposal.

The province also intends to further extend the tax-free service to domestic tourists, besides the overseas visitors, to encourage shopping.

The government will also expand oil and gas exploration, improve transportation networks, and reduce pollution.

Specific measures of the proposal will be reported to the State Council later.

China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, Tax Bureau and other 15 ministries of the nation said they would support Hainan turning itself into an international tourism island.

Several travel agencies in Chongqing said that they would organize tourists to go shopping in Hainan once the policy is approved.

"It'll be much more convenient to purchase luxurious goods in Hainan than Hong Kong, as the return flight tickets and price of local hotels are cheaper, and tourists don't need to apply for an exit permit in advance or choose international flights," Liao Wei, general manager of China Travel Service Group in Chongqing, told Chongqing Business News.

He predicted that Hainan will attract 20 to 30 percent more tourists every year if the new programs are implemented.

Dong Liming, an urban planning professor from Peking University, said the island is currently underdeveloped and most of the tourists are domestic travelers.

"A gambling industry and tax-free service will contribute to the economic growth of the island; but it should also improve the urban infrastructure, service and management level to attract more foreign tourists," he told the Global Times.

Wang Zhi, deputy director of CNTA, said visa-free, tax-free, simplified custom clearance procedure, and currency exchange services are essential to tourism development.

Source: Global Times
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