China’s Covid-free ‘Hawaii’ sees rapid surge in tourism

Millions of Chinese domestic tourists are descending on China’s southernmost island province of Hainan, presenting a surreal contrast with grim hospital scenes, shuttered restaurants and stifling home quarantine elsewhere in a virus-ravaged world.

Known as the “Hawaii of China,” the island, which is about the size of Taiwan, has been free of coronavirus for six months, drawing eager shoppers to duty-free malls, couples seeking a sub-tropical backdrop for wedding pictures, and surfers just looking to “breathe freely.”

October arrivals of Hainan reached 9.6 million, exceeding the year-earlier figure by 3.1 percent. That was a far cry from February, when arrivals had dropped almost 90 percent.

The rapid surge in tourism shows China’s consumer sector may be throwing off its virus-induced slumber as the closure of many international borders pushes travelers to destinations such as Hainan, traditionally costlier than most of Southeast Asia.

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