Can Weizhou Island copy Hainan’s success?
Hainan is widely touted as Hawaii with Dubai infrastructure. The duty-free paradise, which has attracted over 81 million national and foreign tourists in 2021has become a model of development.
But before China designated Hainan a special economic zone in 1988, the tropical island was little in terms of attractions and infrastructure. Fast forward to today and its economy has become a symbol of national growth and social development. Today, many are wondering: could other islands replicate Hainan’s success?
Weizhou Island and Beihai City are favorites to do so. The first, a small volcanic island, is already a national tourist center and famous for its inviting landscapes and white sand. Meanwhile, Beihai claims “largest beach in china.”
The case against? At only 25 square kilometers, Weizhou Island is not the size of Hainan. But the Dutch part of the island of Sint Maarten is only 41.44 square kilometres: that hasn’t stopped him from building a tourist paradise for the world’s wealthy class. Similarly (and although it is not an island but a peninsula), Macau has an area of approximately 32.9 square kilometers. And it is one of the richest countries in the world (with a GDP/capita of 86,117.66 USD in 2019).
The island of Weizhou could copy Macau or even Singapore, turning into a free port, a financial center and a glitzy destination. By attracting the Asian elite through sweeping tax breaks, China could find a second Hong Kong – one where Beijing can be certain of economic and cultural control.
There are clear signs that he is committed to providing support. The GEF Small Grants Program states that “Weizhou Island has become China’s second largest island after Hainan Island, which is clearly positioned to develop international high-end leisure and vacation tourism by the government.”
He also mentioned that the government has developed and implemented the “Weizhou Island Tourism Resources and Ecological Environment Protection Plan” and the “Weizhou Island Tourism Zone Development Plan”. of Beihai”.
Last November, the 2021 International Belt and Road Regatta was held in Beihai. It was not the first of its kind. “In recent years, by holding various international marine sports events, Beihai has fully exploited high-quality marine resources such as Beihai Yintan Beach and Weizhou Island, and developed into an international coastal tourist resort,” said declared a press release provided by the organizing committee of the international Belt and Road regatta.
Obviously, Weizhou Island could benefit from the unprecedented growth of domestic tourism. With international travel not expected to fully return until 2023 (at the earliest), the trend of staying in China is not going away anytime soon. Moreover, the revival of Chinese nationalism and the recent trend of heritage tourism are also driving the trend. Historic Beihai Old Street, for example, is one of the top-rated sights in the area.
China should develop a long-term tourism plan for Weizhou Island and its surroundings. The government can commit to fiscal and economic incentives, cash grants for promotional activities, and even land grants for hotel developments. Local authorities should collaborate with national and international companies to allocate funds for local tourism initiatives: ecotourism projects or tailor-made sustainable package tours through platforms such as Ctrip.com and Meituan. It is not the finished product. But that should in no way deter investors. Again, just look at Sint Maarten and Macao for a possible roadmap to a new – but different – Hainan.