Millions of domestic tourists are landing in Hainan, China’s southern island province, with horrific hospital scenery, shuttered restaurants and the prevention of home confinement elsewhere in the virus-ridden world.
The island, known as the “Hawaii of China” at home, has been without coronavirus for about six months, about the size of Taiwan, attracting shoppers interested in duty-free malls, couples who want a sub-tropical theme for wedding pictures and surfers to “feel free”.
According to official data, 9.6 million arrivals in October were up 3.1 percent before the epidemic, while foreign visitors were down 87 percent. The number of arrivals has dropped by almost 90 per cent since February.
The rapid growth of the tourism sector shows that China’s consumer sector is throwing away its virus-induced sleep, as the closure of many international borders is pushing travelers to destinations like Hainan, which is traditionally more expensive than in Southeast Asia.
Tourism spending has risen from 30,000 yuan (, 4,592) since the new duty-free spending limit of 100,000 yuan (, 15,186) came into effect in July.
Over the next four months Hainan stood at 12 billion yuan (8 1.8 billion), up 214.1 percent year-on-year, or equivalent to $ 13.61 billion ($ 2 billion) in 2019 sales.
Tourists rushing through the Haitong Bay Duty Free Shopping Center in Sanya on the island were shocked to see queues outside luxury brand shops from Chanel to Gucci, with some likening the scene to a yard sale.
“It’s crazy – we did not back down a lot,” said a visitor from the southwestern city of Chengdu, who only gave her name, Mrs. Xi.
But she is ready to stand in a queue for more than 30 minutes in a 12 million square foot (1.1 million square meter) mall to enter the Gucci store.
“Seriously, is Gucci that cheap? With so many people like this, I thought it was free, ”said the 32-year-old.
Liu, 53, was visiting Thailand or Malaysia at this time of year. Sanya said it was a good alternative. She paid more than 14,000 yuan (14,143) for a Gucci handbag.
“Such theft!” Said a Chongqing local from another southwest city.
“We have already bought cosmetics in Haiko and we are here for bags,” she says, referring to the island’s capital.
As China’s “stay-home” economy grows due to the global pandemic, Morgan Stanley estimates “re-shore consumption” will reach $ 165 billion this year.
Post-virus is common
Although the number of visitors from January to October was 46 million less than the 83 million domestic and foreign tourists of 2019, China is poised to expand its tourist boom in the winter.
Reflecting demand, the average daily booking rate in Sanya rose 43 percent in November to $ 151 and rose 51 percent to $ 190 in December, according to AirDNA, an analytics firm that tracks bookings on Airbnb and Verbo.
While the number of assets booked for at least one night in November rose by 7 per cent, in December the number had already reached 85 per cent.
Hainan is also one of the major domestic travel destinations for the upcoming Lunar New Year in February, according to analytics firm Forward Keys.
On the beach stretch filled with five-star hotels along Yalong Bay, dozens of newlyweds prepare for extensive wedding shoots.
Jia Wei, 30, and her 28-year-old husband Wang Yu, locals from far-western Xinjiang, visited the Thai resort island of Phuket to pose for photos.
“Xinjiang is probably the most landlocked place in China, so we always wanted to get married near the sea,” Jia said.
They spent more than 10,000 yuan ($ 1,530) in Sanya in exchange for the pictures.
Unlike the Glitz, Hainan offers a simple drawn normal status.
About 40 minutes drive from the Sanya Center is proving to be very good for business in the village of Hawaii, which is a surf spot, with many homes turning into surf clubs, said Linxin by Jile Surf in brand manager.
While surfing caught up with young people trapped at home during the epidemic, the six-year-old club attracted surfers, musicians and painters among its customers, who have tripled since last year.
“There is no off-season in Sanya this year. Every day is the maximum period since we reopened in March,” Che added.
Yanji, a 25 – year – old tour guide from Beijing, is a regular.
“I had a headache when I was in Beijing. Maybe it’s the wind or my company not even giving me my base salary, ”she said.
“But here, I can hang out in my bikini, bathe in the sun and breathe freely.”