The success of Hainan as an international tourism destination hinges on the island’s ability to protect and use its natural resources sustainably.

Sound strategies to ensure sustainable development

Hainan Island has become one of China’s most important sites for ‘green’ development, solar energy technology and a low-carbon lifestyle the goal of the Chinese Central and Hainan Provincial Governments when the announcement was made to elevate the province into an international tourism destination.

Billions of dollars have been invested in the island’s tourism development over the last couple of years, with a view to maximizing sustainable growth. The province’s tropical location makes it an ideal candidate for solar-powered energy.

And the China Building Material Federation has also made serious efforts to encourage developers to opt for ecological architecture and construction materials, increased energy-saving building materials, and reduced energy consumption. Wind energy technology is also being applied to construction, both to achieve maximum energy savings thus reducing the need for air conditioning but also to minimize environmental impacts.

Individual efforts are impressive

Although it would be impossible to cite the many different case studies, individual efforts by local entrepreneurs, including SMEs, are impressive. By way of example, Mission Hills has retained the original black, volcanic rock, in the construction of its golf courses and, as well as preserving 20,000 native trees on its land, it planted another 50,000. In addition, its grounds feature beautiful man-made lakes and wetlands where there used to be dry stone pits to showcase and preserve native species of flora and fauna.

Solar-powered irrigation

Yang Liu village in Changjiang City, which previously relied on electrical energy for irrigation, is the first in Hainan to have a solar irrigation system installed. The Solartech Solar System adopted converts irradiation from sunlight into electrical energy to draw water up from 15 meters underground. According to Solartech, the system generates 15,330 kWh of electricity each year.

China’s first tropical sea ranch

As already indicated, the possibility of overfishing and degradation of marine ecosystems is a concern in Hainan. Case studies from other parts of the world show that many of the world’s fisheries have suffered. Aquaculture technology, such as sea ranches, is a response to the crisis, aiming to produce many species en masse and to speed up the recovery of stocks that have been hit the hardest.

A new initiative launched by Hainan Sea-View Paradise, developers of Wuzhizhou Island Resort off the coast of Haitang Bay, is the construction of China’s first tropical sea ranch, which involves an initial investment of Rmb20 million. Through rearing fish and shellfish under artificially controlled conditions, the sea ranch project aims to increase fishery resources, speed up the recovery of depleted stocks, and improve the local marine ecology

Role and responsibilities of local communities

Recognizing the key role to be played by all stakeholders in Hainan’s tourism development, there is a serious need for a deep level of local community engagement and empowerment. Ensuring ownership of the sustainable management of natural resources and tourism products will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of Hainan’s tourism. Moreover, emphasis should be placed on the preservation of the province’s rich cultural heritage and, in particular, its ethnic minorities. Engaging with these minorities will not only enhance the tourism product but also ensure that the local communities are stakeholders in the development of tourism while, at the same time, encouraging small businesses.

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