Surf’s up for Hainan islandCategory: Country report
Issues: April 2013
A battle is brewing on the sunny destination’s 1,500km coastline as resorts jostle for a slice of the attractive business events pie, discovers Xinyi Liang-Pholsena
Dubbed China’s answer to Hawaii, Hainan is seeing a resort boom as international and domestic hotel brands alike flock to launch outposts on the tropical isle.
While competition is undoubtedly becoming stiffer in the hospitality sector, this development spells great news for event planners and incentive houses who are now spoilt for choice.
The traditional epicentre of Sanya’s tourism development, the 25km Sanya Bay, continues to see a massive buildup of hotels. The 370-room Four Points by Sheraton entered the market in the second half of 2012, while upcoming properties include the 196-room Park Hyatt Sanya Sunny Bay and the adjacent 183-room Andaz Sanya Sunny Bay.
“The opening of more hotels and resorts in Sanya is helping to generate greater awareness of the area as a MICE destination and bringing more business to the city,” said Jackson Wong, general manager of the 495-key Ramada Plaza Sanya, which launched on January 30 this year on Sanya Bay.
“We have been receiving many enquiries from small and mid-size corporate groups since our pre-opening last year, and we have already confirmed our first 80-pax group arriving in mid-March, plus several enquiries under negotiation for 2013. As a new hotel, we are very flexible with rates, so I am optimistic on the MICE business this year.”
The 7.5km Yalong Bay has also upped its ante with the debut of the 401-room St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay in late-2011. According to senior sales manager, Danny Li, the resort’s exclusive partnership with the on-site Sanya Yalong Bay Yacht Club – which offers fully staffed vessels for private charters – as well as two in-house movie theatres offer myriad opportunities for top-tier incentives and corporate events.
Further north, the 43km Haitang Bay is the newest battlefield for high-end hotels, where brands such as Renaissance, Sheraton, Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton, Kempinski and The Royal Begonia have emerged. In the pipeline are The Westin, opening this July, and Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo next year.
Downplaying concerns over the rapid rise in luxury inventory, Nicolas Solari, general manager of the 449-key Haitang Bay Gloria Sanya, which officially opened in February this year, believes the availability of more upper five-star rooms in Haitang Bay is an “advantage” as more resorts will “create further synergy”.
He added: “The government has focused on improving the infrastructure – proof is the new highway placing Haitang Bay 35 minutes from the (Phoenix International Sanya) airport. The state-of-the-art Hainan 301 hospital is located on the same compound as our resort, and the largest duty-free shop in China is well underway in Haitang Bay.”
Elsewhere in Sanya, the 122-key Anantara Sanya Resort and Spa, nestled between Xiaodonghai Bay and Luhuitou Bay, began operations in August 2012, whereas the 299-key Raffles Hainan has just opened in March in Clearwater Bay on the island’s south-east coast.
And it is no longer just Sanya netting MICE business on Hainan island.
The Haikou government has set up the Haikou Convention and Exhibition Bureau – the nation’s first – in June 2012 and has pledged RMB35 million (US$5.6 million) to support the development of the MICE industry in the provincial capital.
Also banking on Haikou’s growing reputation as a MICE destination is Shangri-La Hotel, Haikou, which debuted in November last year, sitting adjacent to the 136,200m2 Hainan International Convention and Exhibition Center (HICEC).
“We work closely with HICEC in order to cater to MICE groups. The meetings segment has been the strongest for the hotel,” said general manager, Jordon Xu.
The 337-room hotel recently hosted the Snooker World Open Haikou 2013 from February 25 to March 3, in addition to two meetings with 100 attendees each in mid-March. The property is also gearing up for full occupancy in April when a five-day, 200-pax meeting will be held in conjunction with the Book Expo 2013 at HICEC.
The proximity to facilities also makes Haikou popular with business event planners and business travellers.
Coming up next in the city is The Westin Haikou, due to open on May 1, as well as a Hard Rock Hotel in 2015. They will join existing resorts such as Crown Spa Resort Hainan, HNA Beach & Spa Resort Haikou and Sheraton Haikou Resort.