Russian Tourists Flock to Hainan

How did I choose Hainan?

As many travelers so regularly do when researching a new vacation destination, I typed “The top 10 destinations in China” into my search engine. My knowledge of China was limited before starting my search, so I let the internet enlighten me about locations besides Beijing and Shanghai. I scrolled down through the search results, and one title caught my eye, “The Hawaii of China.”  A vivid picture of laying on a beach with a cocktail in my hand appeared in my mind, and I clicked on the link. This was when I discovered Hainan.

Hainan is a subtropical island off the coast of Hong Kong. It’s about the size of Maryland and is the southernmost province in China. Hainan has the best air quality in China due to its economy consisting of agriculture and tourism. It mainly produces rice, coconuts, black pepper, pineapples, coffee, and tea. Its tourism industry is thriving on account of its tropical beaches, lush forests, and pristine rivers.

After reading about the island, and looking at countless breathtaking photos, I decided it would be the perfect ending to our class China trip. I choose the city of Sanya as my destination and quickly booked my flights and hotel.

Arriving in Sanya

I arrived in Sanya after spending time in Xiamen and Shanghai. Both places surpassed my expectations, and I couldn’t wait to see this tropical paradise. The resort and beaches were exactly how I imagined them in my head, and the customer service was exquisite. But there was one thing about the island that I did not expect. There seemed to be two main nationalities of tourists; Chinese and Russian.

The large number of Russian tourists surprised me. It was not just about seeing many Russian people, but the street signs and restaurant menus were in Chinese and Russian. All the people working at the shops spoke both languages, and there were many Russian restaurants and bars. Everywhere I looked I saw Chinese and Russian flags flying. This Chinese-Russian connection intrigued me, and I wanted to learn what was driving it.

Why were the Russian tourists flocking to Hainan?

The Chinese government started a push in 2009 to make Hainan an international vacation spot by 2020. The strategy to increase tourism is based on three main attractions; entertainment, cultural activities, and medical tourism. Hainan has world-renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) hospitals, and Russians genuinely believe in the benefits of TCM. The Sanya hospital has been the pioneer in the development of TCM healthcare tourism. The Russian National Medical Commission (RNMC) visited the hospitals on Hainan and certified them based on Russian standards. The RNMC started cooperating with the hospitals to not just encourage Russian medical tourists to travel to Hainan but to export TCM clinics to Russia.

The interest in TCM healthcare tourism boosted Russian visitors to Hainan from 81,000 in 2016 to 350,000 in 2017. This exponential growth is helping the local economies in Hainan as well as opening up opportunities for Russians to live and work on the island. Many Russian restaurants and bars have recently opened, and Russian products are being imported onto the island. The cultivation of TCM healthcare tourism is proving to be fruitful for both countries.

I’m an individual who has gotten acupuncture and cupping in the States, and I regret the fact that I did not know about the TCM healthcare tourism in Hainan while I was there. I hope someday I will be able to return to Hainan and experience all the offerings this island has to offer.