Sansha, China’s southernmost city, plans to further boost its tourism industry with a second cruise ship to the Xisha Islands, which officials said will be in operation by year’s end.
Sansha has so far received more than 10,000 tourists through cruise ships since cruises to the Xisha Islands began on April 28, 2013, the city government said.
The only current cruise ship operating in the islands is the 200-bed Coconut Princess, operated by Hainan Strait Shipping. Sansha Mayor Xiao Jie said the ship cannot meet the rising market demand.
Travelers can currently take the Coconut Princess from Sanya to the Yagong, Quanfu and Yinyu islands in the South China Sea on a four-day trip that costs between 3,980 yuan ($640) and 12,200 yuan.
Xiao said the city is looking for fresh opportunities from the country’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative and will push forward more tourism products to meet the increasing market demand.
Xiao said that the city has a number of cultural relics, including fishermen’s dwellings from the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) and Song Dynasty (960-1279), as well as several shipwreck sites.
In an effort to boost tourism, the city established the State-owned Xisha Tourism Development Co in April. Company General Manager Xie Zanliang said the city will try to persuade more tourists to spend their vacations on the islands in addition to taking cruises through them.
Sansha will increase the number of cruise-ship destinations, with Yongxing Island, the Sansha government seat, one of the possible destinations, Xie said.
“We need to take into account the capacity of the islets to handle tourists. Cruise ships cannot dock on some of them, and the tourists have to be brought ashore by smaller ships,” he said.
Xie conceded that the difficult navigation conditions near Sansha remain a major hurdle to the tourism.
“Cruise trips are frequently canceled because of typhoons or even strong winds,” he said.
The development of tourism must also be coupled with the protection of maritime ecology, he added.
He Qiwang, an executive at the Wenchang Chunguang Foodstuff Co, a company that is helping Sansha develop its tourism products, said the potential for tourism development in Sansha is huge.
“The city has rich resources in its marine products. The city itself is also under the national spotlight,” he said.
Lin Youhui, a 67-year-old fisherman who lives in Yongxing, said they would look forward to more tourists, as fishing near the Xisha Islands had dropped in recent years, mainly a result of overfishing.
“Tourists could provide another source of income. At least our sea products would sell better,” he said.