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February 15, 2020

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Tourist island seeks upgrade amid epidemic

A once-bustling tourist hotspot in south China’s Hainan Province, Sanya Wuzhizhou Island has been quiet amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The scenic spot was closed to the public due to the virus, but work there did not stop. A few employees who stayed on the island are broadening roads, pruning plants and maintaining the underwater landscape. Its management is also upgrading the ticketing system on the official website.

“We’re improving both the hardware and the software, as we prepare for the return of tourists after the epidemic,” said Chen Yandong, vice chairman of the scenic spot’s management.

The raging outbreak has taken a heavy toll on tourism in Hainan, depriving it of the much-anticipated peak travel time during the Spring Festival holiday. Last year, the province received 5.8 million visitors during the weeklong holiday, which plunged to nearly null this year.

Deng Yun, an outbound tour guide at a local travel agency, said all her trips during February and March had been canceled.

“Many tour guides were forced to idle at home. We’re under a lot of financial pressure because our incomes mainly come from leading tours,” Deng said.

But like many practitioners in the industry, Deng spends the extended respite from work in self-improvement and she studied visa policies and acquainted herself with more overseas destinations.

“Now is a good opportunity to study my business because our daily work used to be very busy, leaving us little time for self-learning,” she said.

On Monday, the Sanya Tourist Attractions Association launched a project to offer online training targeting tourism enterprises, calling for them to promote service and management through training during the epidemic outbreak. About 500 local tourism practitioners have participated in the training.

He Zhiquan, deputy marketing manager of Tongguling scenic spot in Hainan’s city of Wenchang, said they started an online training program on innovation and marketing of tourist sites.

“It is mainly an opportunity to improve the employees’ skills, our management and service, all in preparation for the resumption of work,” He said. “The epidemic is expected to hit the tourism industry throughout the first half of the year, but we still have confidence since tourism has become a necessity.”

In an effort to help tourism enterprises weather the epidemic, the Hainan provincial government announced six supportive measures, including reducing or exempting their rent and taxes.

As a key tourist city in Hainan, Sanya has earmarked 100 million yuan (US$14.3 million) to support tourism companies and stabilize the market.

Wang Jiansheng, chairman of Hainan Tourism Development Research Association, noted that though the epidemic has dealt a dire blow to the country’s tourism, it did not change the huge size of the market and the booming demand, which guarantees tourism’s future recovery.

“The epidemic pressed a pause button for the tourism industry, which is an opportunity for the enterprises to reflect and recharge,” said Wang, adding that with collective efforts, the tourism industry will revive after the epidemic.


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