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Foreign tourists head to China's tropical island to dodge winter chill

(Xinhua)

08:57, January 12, 2012

HAIKOU, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- As China's sole tropical island province, Hainan is gaining wider popularity as a hot tourism resort among foreign tourists who come to enjoy the sunshine and avoid the winter chill.

Sources with the provincial tourism commission said Hainan received more than 800,000 overseas tourists in 2011, up 21 percent from 660,000 registered in 2010.

Russian tourists constituted a major group traveling to the island's resorts, which feature tropical sceneries such as in the southernmost coastal city of Sanya.

One visitor, Russian tourist Natascha, said she had fallen in love with the island when she was taken by her parents while still a little girl.

"I can still remember the warm feeling experienced here that I never enjoyed before," Natascha recalled. "Hainan is such a memorable place."

According to the tourism commission, Russian tourists account for about a quarter of the island's foreign visitors.

Besides its sun, sand and sea, Hainan is proving attractive because it has ushered in a visa-free entry policy to enable travelers from 26 countries to join tour groups and register with authorities just one day ahead of their scheduled departure time.

Many elderly people are also choosing Hainan as a favorite tourist destination.

Japanese tourist Kawasaki said he and his wife usually stay two to three weeks in the province during winter because "the sunshine here is quite suitable for the elderly."

Hainan is building itself into a world-class travel destination, and the coffers are being bolstered by increased tourism. Revenues from tourism in 2011 totaled around 32 billion yuan (5.06 billion U.S. dollars), according to the tourism commission.

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