Officials in China's southernmost island province of Hainan are hoping a fledgeling yachting industry will give the famed tourism destination the edge to draw wealthy tourists from home and broad. 'Yachting can strongly propel tourism and the local economy in a sustainable way,' Lu Zhiyuan, director of the Hainan tourism development commission, was quoted as saying by Saturday's China Daily.
China's yacht market was worth about 3 billion yuan (about 455 million U.S. dollars) in 2009 and has an annual growth rate of about 10 percent, the paper said, quoting an industry report.
Government officials used to be wary of the luxurious image of yachting for fear of upsetting social harmony, particularly given the widening rich-poor gap in China, Wang Dafu, chairman of the Shenzhen Visun Real Estate Group, and a deputy to the Hainan provincial people's congress, was quoted as saying. He said that a change of attitude in recent years had helped the business to boom. More than 1,000 yachts are registered on the Chinese mainland and some 37 percent of the most luxurious ones are docked at one of the Hainan's five yachting clubs, said the newspaper.
Officials are keen to turn yachting into one of the pillars of local tourism as the province's development plan for up to 2015 refers to yachting five times. The tropical island announced a plan early last year to build itself into a top international tourism destination by 2020.
[There are some figures here which bear closer examination. '37 percent of the most luxurious ones' is a rather imprecise number, depending on what you call 'most luxurious'. As the State news agency, Xinhua tends to make everything in the garden very rosy. We have heard stories from Hainan about lack of depth, fouled submarine cables, and other problems. We are also aware that China recently constructed a major submarine base there, so quite how welcome foreign-flagged superyachts are likely to be is anyone's guess.
Guy Nowell, Asia Editor]