South China’s resort island of Hainan plans to control tourists’ cars to ease traffic congestion during holidays.
The plan is included in its economic and social development plan for 2014, which was passed Thursday at the annual session of Hainan Provincial People’s Congress, the provincial legislature.
Hainan will “strengthen administration” on tourists vehicles entering the island, said the report.
The decision came after an increase in arrival of tourists driving their own cars and serious traffic jams in recent years during national holidays.
During the Lunar New Year holiday, which ended on Feb. 6, Hainan received 2.6 million tourists, an increase of 37 percent year on year, according to the Hainan Tourism Development Commission.
In 28 hotels sampled on the island, there were 53,609 independent tourists and 27,520 group travelers during the period.
The Haikou port is the only way for cars to get on and off the island. During the holiday, the port handled 70,000 passengers and 13,000 vehicles each day. At the peak, 110,000 passengers and 20,000 vehicles passed the port daily.
Sanya, a popular resort in the south of the island, has 96,000 cars of its own, plus 100,000 more from outside which arrived during the festival, said Wang Yong, mayor of the city.
The city, with a downtown population of 300,000, received 1 million tourists during the holiday.
“Traffic congestion is natural,” said Wang.
“It was really too congested,” complained a taxi driver who fully supports the government’s move.
“It was the busiest Spring Festival I have ever seen. There were a lot more vehicles than in previous years,” said Liu, a Sanya traffic police officer who worked from early morning to midnight each day during the holiday.
“An excessive number of outside vehicles will harm Hainan’s resources and environment. Hainan cannot handle that many cars,” said Zhou Yan, an official of the Hainan Development and Reform Commission, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
The concrete steps under discussion include collecting fees from tourists who arrive by car to promote clean energy and construction of infrastructure, such as large ports and airports, said Zhou, also a drafter of the government report.
With middle-class tourism growing in Hainan, more cars are inevitable, according to Chi Fulin, head of the China Institute for Reform and Development, a Hainan think tank.
As environmental protection is vital for Hainan’s development as an international resort, control can be imposed on the entry of bigger vehicles to reduce air pollution, Chi suggested.
Hainan was designated as a province in 1988 and became China’s largest special economic zone in the same year. The island enjoys preferential development policies and boasts year-round tropical weather, clean beaches, forests and diverse ethnic cultures.
The government announced a plan in January 2010 to build the tropical island into a top international tourist destination by 2020. To attract visitors,the province has duty-free policies, tax rebate programs and visa exemptions for tourists from 26 countries.
As tourism booms, infrastructure such as ports and roads, has lagged behind, said Lu Zhiyuan, director of Hainan Tourism Development Commission.
“I think the key to solving traffic jams lies not in the control of tourists, but in more investment in roads and other facilities,” said Lu.
The island should develop its car rental market and civil aviation industry for tourists, said netizen “Dadonghainan,” who supported the planned controls on tourists’ cars.
Parking areas should be expanded and tourists encouraged to take public transport, said Shi Yaozhong, president of Hainan Highway Survey and Design Institute.
A new pier for ferries in Chengmai County is under construction and is expected to be put into temporary use at the end of this year. This will accelerate the passage of vehicles across the Qiongzhou Strait, which connects Hainan and Guangdong Province, according to Dong Xianzeng, head of the provincial transport department.
Sanya is planning rail projects linking scenic spots to downtown as well as construction of two new bridges this year.
“We have no choice but to improve ourselves,” said Luo Baoming, Communist Party chief for Hainan.
“We need to adapt to tourists and serve them rather than refusing them,” he said.