Millions of domestic tourists flock to China’s southernmost island province of Hainan, Sanya, known as the ‘Hawaii of China’, with October arrivals reaching 9.6 million, according to official data, exceeded the same period last year by 3.1%. But, foreign visitors slumped 87% which is a far cry from February, when arrivals had dropped almost 90%.
The rapid rise in tourism shows China’s consumer sector may be throwing off its virus-induced slumber as the closure of many international borders pushes travellers to destinations such as Hainan, traditionally costlier than most of Southeast Asia.
Tourism spending has got a leg up since a new duty-free spending cap of RMB100,000 (USD15,186) for travellers took effect in July, up from RMB30,000 earlier.
Tourists racing through the Haitang Bay Duty Free Shopping Center in the island’s city of Sanya were astonished at the queues outside the boutiques of luxury brands with some likening the scene to a junk yard sale.
Hainan has raked in RMB12 billion in such sales in the following four months, to stand up 214.1% on the year, or almost on par with 2019 sales of RMB13.61 billion.
According to Morgan Stanley, it estimates the “reshored consumption” could reach up to USD165 billion this year as the “stay-home” economy grew in China because of the global pandemic.
Although the 46 million visitors Hainan received from January to October were well below the 2019 figure of 83 million domestic and foreign tourists, Chinese travellers are set to extend the tourism boom into the winter.
The average daily rate of bookings in Sanya soared 43% in November from a year earlier to USD151, and jumped 51% to USD190 for December, according to analytics firm AirDNA, which tracks bookings on Airbnb and Vrbo.
While the number of properties with at least one night booked rose 7% in November, the figure for December had already reached 85% of the year-earlier level.
Hainan is also the travel destinations for the Lunar New Year coming up in February, according to analytics firm ForwardKeys.