Is Sanya, China's Premier Resort Town, Finally Ready for Upscale International Arrivals?

With some of the world's top luxury hotel brands like Capella, Mandarin Oriental and Park Hyatt already firmly entrenched on its shores, is Sanya on Hainan island finally ready for the international well-heeled?

Cocktails and sunsets at Capella Sanya are a match made in heaven

For over 3 decades Hainan has been growing steadily from a sleepy coastal outpost of Guangzhou province into a special economic development zone where massive investments have been poured into its infrastructure and industries, resulting in impressive high speed rails and highways now snaking through the island connecting key cities. Tourism has also become a thriving industry of this once sleepy island, gathering onto its shores one of the highest concentration of luxury hotels within a Chinese province.

Rustic farmlands sprawl across Haitang Bay's interior

While its capital Haikow is teeming with hotels that are more geared for business travellers, Sanya at its southernmost tip has been largely developed as the Chinese Riviera for luxury travellers, where illustrious brands such as the Mandarin Oriental and Park Hyatt have maintained a presence for the past decade. The recent opening of the Capella Sanya, a gargantuan Jean-Michel Gathy - Bill Bensley forged landmark address, has clearly signaled that development is not likely to abate on the island anytime soon. Therein lies the conundrum -

Why is Sanya still unable to attract significant international visitors to its pristine shores dotted by world-class resorts?

Braised sea cucumber is a Cantonese delicacy served at Capella Sanya's Lan Ting

For one, Sanya isn't yet geared for international arrivals as access is currently limited to mostly domestic flights and low cost carriers flying in from Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei and Korea. The destination may be heavenly, but the passage certainly isn't. While this isn't much of an issue with destinations like Phuket, Penang or Chiang Mai, Sanya remains an obscured destination to resort hoppers from out of China, with limited attraction and understanding from a lack of well-targeted promotions and advertising.

Capella Sanya is a gargantuan Jean-Michel Gathy - Bill Bensley forged landmark address in Hainan

A destination with a large concentration of mainland Chinese tourists can also prove to be a deterrent for foreign holiday makers, whether it is by reputation or otherwise. With a visitorship that is overwhelmingly Chinese, the island naturally takes on the traits and stereotypes that come with the demography. While these arrivals are sustaining the health of Sanya's tourism industry, a more balanced approach to destination marketing for overseas markets, especially towards the rich pools of expat populations within Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, might equalise crowd profiles in the long run and draw in a more diverse group of travellers. To be overly reliant on a single market is always a risky bet, and might prove to be disastrous when dynamics shift over untoward circumstances.

Beautiful Sunny Bay is a secluded enclave that houses Park Hyatt Sanya

Over a week long visit, the very best of Sanya was experienced through 3 stunning resorts at different locales across the riviera. Blessed Bay where Capella opened just 6 months ago is the destination du jour, with splendid coastlines and an interior still sheltering rustic old villages and bucolic scenes. Capella Sanya, currently the brand's pride and joy, boasts of breathtaking designs and immensely luxurious details that is setting the bar far beyond Sanya's shores.

Stunning architecture is a defining aspect at Capella Sanya

Mandarin Oriental Sanya is a 10 year old resort perched on a gorgeous cliff amidst mature landscapes designed by Bill Bensley. Boasting all the qualities of a MO resort, old world luxuries like its superbly exclusive Coral Bay villa, inspired modern cuisine at Fresh and the pampering touches of its luxurious spa, have all been meticulously maintained.

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Sanya diffuses old world charm and luxury

The Jean-Michel Gathy designed Park Hyatt Sanya is raised at Sunny Bay, a coral fringed enclave that probably boasts of the riviera's most splendid sea views. The interiors of this property are fabulously modern yet classically attuned, where intricate windows, books and art line the luminous passageways connecting the six blocks that piece together the resort. The rooms here are eclectically designed and command the bay's most splendid vistas on the higher floors.

Inspired cuisine at Mandarin Oriental Sanya's Fresh

With such wonderful attractions bolstered by an infrastructure growing at an impressive rate, Hainan definitely has the potential to become a world class destination. Sanya, even Haikow, can however act more proactively to improve their airport facilities to ready themselves for more arrivals via reputable carriers like Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways. When the channels are finally open, it is only a matter of time before the international deluge will come into view.

Stunning interiors piece together Park Hyatt Sanya's multiple buildings