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At the turn of the millennium, Hainan Island hardly registered on the radar of Chinese travelers, let alone global visitors. Back then, domestic travel was in its infancy, but the pace of change in China during the past decade has led to tourism becoming a robust economic sector. As a direct result, this tropical isle in the South China Sea — roughly the size of Belgium — is now one of Asia’s hottest resort destinations.
The impetus for resort growth on Hainan Island was provided by China’s growing middle class and its desire for family breaks beside the sea. Hainan, which loosely translates as “South of the Sea,” was the obvious option — boasting year-round sunshine, bountiful white-sand beaches, tropical palms and plenty of opportunity for development.
Hainan also holds a unique place in Chinese history. Once nicknamed the End of the Earth, it was a barren outpost where enemies of Beijing’s Imperial court were expelled. Tourism provided an opportunity to redeem Hainan’s reputation and create something unique in China — a tropical holiday island.
While clients will find that the majority of visitors hail from China, during the winter, there is a large influx of Russian travelers, and year-round vacationers arrive on Hainan from Hong Kong and across Southeast Asia.
Hainan’s primary attractions are its fine beaches, calm seas offering numerous watersports and world-class resorts. For the past decade, the arcing vanilla-white curve of Yalong Bay, near the southern city of Sanya, has welcomed an array of family resorts by names such as The Ritz-Carlton, Hilton and Marriott.
More recently, in late 2011, St. Regis opened a deluxe resort with personal butlers, an Iridium Spa, 28 beachside villas and a private marina with 150 yacht berths. In February 2012, MGM Grand joined the Yalong Bay party — opening the brand’s first non-casino resort.
Yalong Bay’s oceanfront is now at full capacity, so resort developers have shifted their focus elsewhere. Mandarin Oriental Sanya (Coral Bay) and Banyan Tree Sanya Resort & Spa (Luhuitou Bay) opened within a short drive, while Le Meridien Shimei Bay Beach Resort & Spa overlooks surfing waves on the east coast.
In addition, a Park Hyatt and a boutique Andaz Resort are slated for Sunny Bay on the southern coast. Raffles, JW Marriott and Hilton are among 10 resorts opening in Qingshui (Clearwater) Bay.
New deluxe accommodations don’t stop there — indeed the pace of supply growth will increase in the next three years. Sanya’s next-generation resort center is Haitang Bay, a 13-mile crescent of sand backed by rainforest around 90 minutes east of Yalong Bay. A total of 40 luxury resorts are projected to open here in the coming years, including Grand Hyatt, InterContinental, Kempinski, Fairmont and Waldorf-Astoria.
Four resorts have already opened their doors in Haitang Bay, including Conrad, Doubletree by Hilton and Sheraton. Also located here is the grand Renaissance Sanya Resort and Spa, the first Renaissance resort in China, which features Sanya’s largest swimming pool, largest ballroom and largest presidential suite.
In August, The Royal Begonia marked Starwood’s first Luxury Collection Resort on Hainan. It offers 142 guestrooms and suites, tours to Li and Miao ethnic minority villages, Li-brocade weaving lessons and Hainan cookery classes, plus speedboat trips to Wuzhizhou Island, one of the area’s top diving locations.
Clients visiting Hainan will certainly enjoy a deluxe resort life, complete with excellent spas, dining and bars. Beyond the resorts, however, infrastructure is relatively limited. Very few independent beach bars exist, and non-resort nightlife and restaurants are extremely rare. The beaches are beautiful, however, as are the inland mountains and hot springs.
Beyond the coastline, golf is a significant year-round attraction. Hainan counts around 30 top-class golf courses, a couple of which were built on hillside rubber plantations overlooking the beaches.
The capital of Hainan golf is Mission Hills Haikou, a golf mega-club on the north end of the island. The sibling resort to Mission Hills Shenzhen, the world’s largest golf club, it hosted the biannual Omega Mission Hills World Cup in November 2011. Mission Hills Haikou offers ten 18-hole courses, including the Blackstone championship course, which wends around jungle, lakes and wetlands and a bed of lava rock. Also on site are a lavish resort hotel and spa, natural hot springs, restaurants, retail outlets and a sports center.
Wherever clients find themselves while visiting Hainan, something impossible to miss is the penchant for vacation shopping demonstrated by Chinese tourists. Several resorts feature luxury stores by upscale brands, while a major draw for Chinese are the duty-free mega malls. Even if shopping is not a favorite personal pastime, visiting the China Duty Free mall is worthwhile.
Floor-to-ceiling entrance windows feature giant Cartier, Tag Heuer, Piaget and Omega banners, and the store-finder map reads like an A to Z of global luxury brands. Advise clients who are looking to buy to go early — Chinese shoppers are voracious and, by late morning each day, large rows of shelving emblazoned with the names Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein and Bulgari are already empty.
If Hainan symbolizes one thing, it’s that this type of resort development is what will attract Chinese travelers — wherever they may be headed.
Tea Time With The Lindy at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong KongMO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental has a longstanding tradition of serving fashionable afternoon teas that correspond to the creations of renowned designers. This September MO Bar is featuring an afternoon tea inspired by Marc Jacobs’ famous handbag, The Lindy. Available between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, the teas are served with savory snacks or a three-tier tea set, cake buffet and coffee for $25. On Sundays, for $30, the tea is served with a Sunday dessert buffet. All guests receive a special Marc Jacobs gift set while supplies last.
Shanghai Xin Tian Di - The Place to BeLocated in the center of Shanghai City, south of Huihai Zhong Lu, Shanghai Xin Tian Di is a fashionable pedestrian avenue that combines Shikumen and modern architectural styles for an ambience that is both romantically old-world and excitingly modern. Divided into two blocks, Shanghai Xin Tian Di is considered the safest place to experience Shanghai’s nightlife, especially for first-time visitors. The South Block features mostly modern architecture with a shopping and entertainment complex, including boutiques, cinemas, shops and restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. The North Block is mostly comprised of the Shikumen architecture, with upscale shops and its own coterie of international restaurants.
The City of Rosa ChinesisThe flower of Beijing, Rosa Chinesis blooms across the city of Beijing from May to October. rosa chinesis is known for its remarkable beauty, fragrance and blooms in different colors, with various meanings. pink rosa chinesis means “the first love,” or “noble,” while violet means “precious treasure.” Some of the best places to appreciate the city flower of Beijing are: The Beijing Botanical Garden, The Taoranting Park, The Beijing Garden of World’s Flowers and The Temple of Heaven, to name a few.
New and Noteworthy
Chedi Club Suzhou to Open in 2013After working exclusively in Italy since 1999, Giulio D’Alberto is bringing his expertise to China with the opening of Chedi Club Suzhou. Set to open in early 2013, the hotel will occupy three floors of the all-glass Global 188 towers and feature a rooftop restaurant, a health club and a spa equipped with 12 treatment rooms, including a reflexology salon. Chedi Club Suzhou is managed by GHM, which is teaming up with Jaya Ibrahim to create an interior design that embraces both modern and traditional qualities for a unique urban retreat.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf ClubSituated just outside the picturesque town of Lijiang, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club is now offering golf tours, including an 18-hole round at both the Jade Dragon Golf Club and the Ancient Town Waterview Golf Resort. The courses were designed by Neil Haworth and offer spectacular mountain views and moderate mountain temperatures year-round. In between games, travelers can enjoy wandering the Lijiang old town and enjoying local Naxi cuisine.
Fuchun Resort Picks Up Three AwardsLocated just outside Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, Fuchun Resort has won three different awards at the start of the annual hotel awards season. Fuchun Resort was awarded the Best Luxury Resort Spa in China at the World Spa Awards for the second year running. At the National Geographic Traveler China Awards, the resort won Best Hotel Spa and Best Urban Holiday Hotel. The hotel’s acclaimed spa features a waveless pool pavilion as its centerpiece, a yoga lounge, two Chinese Massage rooms and more.
VIEW62 By Paco RonceroPaco Roncero’s new restaurant, VIEW62, has opened in Hong Kong. The restaurant derives its name from its location on the 62nd floor of the Hopewell Centre in Wanchai on Queen’s Road East. View62 is the city’s only revolving restaurant with a complete 360-degree turn. The restaurant serves avant-garde nouvelle cuisine from two chef tasting menus and two set menus for dinner, as well as two set lunch menus with an afternoon tea menu. View62 also features a bar lounge with a black marble bar and a DJ booth.
A Romantic EscapadeThe Romantic Escapade package at Fuchun Resort provides a three-day/two-night getaway for two. The package includes daily breakfast at Lake Lounge, dinner at Club 8, a 90-minute spa treatment and roundtrip transportation from the airport or train station. Couples can also enjoy an in-room Blissful Bath experience and a 60-minute yoga session. The package is available through March 2013 and begins at $723. www.fuchunresort.com/en
Pandas & Peking Duck Family Package at the FairmontThe Pandas & Peking Duck package at the Fairmont is a dynamic package designed to cater to a fun-filled family vacation. The package includes accommodation for a minimum of three nights (connecting rooms guaranteed), kids’ activities, babysitting service, one Peking duck dinner for up to five people, spa treatment upgrade and complimentary transportation to Beijing Zoo. A complimentary extra bed will be provided for children under 12 years of age. This package is available year-round at a rate of $307 per night. www.fairmont.com/beijing/special-offers/hotel-offers
A Fabulous Deal in Hong KongThe Fabulous Deal Package at Langham Place in Hong Kong promises 10 percent off a stay in the Chuan Residence Suite with full, exclusive access to their executive lounge, Club L, available 24 hours a day. The packages also provides a credit of $65 to Chuan Spa, which offers more than 60 holistic treatments for the mind and body. The package price begins at $383. and is available until Dec. 31. www.langhamhotels.com
Beijing Tourism Administrationwww.visitbeijing.com.cn
China National Tourism Administrationen.cnta.gov.cn
China National Tourist Officewww.cnto.org
Tanzhesi Temple Zen Tea Culture FestivalThe Zen Tea Festival in Beijing aims to promote traditional Chinese tea culture. Tanzhisi Temple offers a series of Tenzhesi Zen Tea products to add to visitors’ experience. There is a performance of the Emperor offering incense to Buddha to tell the history of tea culture. (Through Sept. 10)
Beijing Modern International Art FestivalThe Beijing Modern International Art Festival at The No. 1 International Art Zone is the largest and one of the most developed artistic spaces in China. It features world-famous artists from China and abroad. (Sept. 18 - Oct. 17)
New Year Bell Striking in ShanghaiAt midnight in Longhua Temple, visitors and locals alike gather for the striking of the bell to welcome a new year. The bell striking is considered sacred and believed to bring good fortune in the coming year. New Year noodles, dancing in the square and a fireworks display provide entertainment following the solemnity of the bell striking. (Dec. 31)
Yuyuan New Year Lantern FestivalThe New Year Lantern Festival in Yuyuan Shopping City, near Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, features beautiful handmade lanterns along Mid-Lake Pavillion bridge. Dragon and lion dances are also performed during this time, providing a well-rounded spectacle for the curious traveler. (February)