Being a costal city with abundant natural landscapes in Fujian province, Pingtan has witnessed an increasing number of tourists in the past few years.
In 2012, about 1.3 million travelers came to Pingtan, while the number climbed to 1.4 million in 2013. And as many as 1.6 million have toured the region up to and including the National Day holidays this year, according to Fujian Daily.
Before, the majority of tourists visited Pingtan in summer. The tourism authorities have now changed the situation by enriching more tourism programs to lure more visitors in winter, said Wu Jiehua, director of the local tourism bureau.
Pingtan boasts 70 km of beautiful shoreline and eight national scenic spots, most of which are marine abrasion landforms. But they were much less appealing in the dusty, windy winter without inadequate support facilities, according to Lin Fang, a local tourism practitioner.
"Many local travel agencies closed their businesses in winter, and those tour guides had to find another part-time job,” she said.
Another big hurdle, according to Lin, was the traffic. Before 2011, Pingtan was an isolated island. And people had no choice but to take ships in and out. In addition, there weren’t too many decent roads connecting the different tourism destinations. The inconvenience really dampened the fever of the travelers.
The accommodation was also far from good enough, as there were only 2,000 beds in hotels in the county.
No wonder tourism used to hibernate, too.
The situation, however, has been gradually improving in recent years.
It started with the traffic. In late 2011, as the Haixia Bridge and Yuping Interchange went into operation, Pingtan was linked with the outside world more closely. It now only takes 90 minutes to get to neighboring Fuzhou city.
Since the beginning of this year, a raft of municipal boulevards and another cross-sea bridge has opened to traffic, making the island city more accessible.
It is notable that the launching of the Haixia, a high-speed passenger ferry which regularly sails between Pingtan and Taiwan, in late 2011, expanded new grounds in the tourism market of Pingtan, and brought in a great many tourists from across the Taiwan Straits.
As of Oct this year, Haixia and another cross-Straits passenger ferry, Natchan Rera, have transported more than 310,000 people in less than three years .
"Most tourists boarding Haixia and Rera like to stay in Pingtan for one or two days to explore its charm,” said You Xiaoyu, a local tour guide.
More tourism alternatives
Pingtan’s tourism authorities also tried to entice visitors with more tourism choices and programs.
A duty-free market which sells commodities from Taiwan opened in June. The market, the second of its kind on the Chinese mainland, soon became a hot destination for tourists as it offers a 6,000-yuan cap on purchasing for every customer.
During the seven-day National Day holidays, about 120,000 people came to the market and made purchases.
A colossal tourism project – Haitan Ancient City – is currently being built. The 8.6-billion-yuan ($1.4b) project aims to transform approximately 70 hectares of land situated in the Tannan District of Pingtan into a multifunctional retro tourism complex with restaurants, shopping, entertainment, accommodation, and so on.
The first phase of the project, which takes up around 38 hectares, is slated for completion by the next Spring Festival – Jan 31, 2015.
In addition, Pingtan has particularly decided to host various themed events or sports programs in winter.
The first Pingtan International Sculpture Exhibition, for example, was held on Oct 10 and 11. The exhibition features 48 master pieces out of 1,242 urban sculpture items submitted from 61 countries and regions. The works will be forever on display at the Zhuyuhu Park.
From Oct 24 to 29, the Pingtan leg of the 2014 Kitesurfing World Cup will kick off. More than 80 players from over 20 countries have signed up for the exciting event.
Tourism means so much to Pingtan that the authorities have all agreed to make it a pillar industry in the future and will promote the brand of Pingtan across the world.
The overall development plan of Pingtan notes that Pingtan will enhance tourism cooperation with Taiwan by connecting each other’s tourism routes, and will strive to become a world-class destination for island tourism.
To achieve this ambitious goal, Pingtan has hired professional teams to inspect its tourism resources and make tourism development plans accordingly. It will also comprehensively upgrade the conditions of scenic spots, sources said.
Authorities are also making great efforts to bring in new investment in tourism. In September alone, it reached investment deals with three companies that will bring 12 billion yuan in tourism exploitation.
The Zhongfu Haixia (Pingtan) Development Co and the China Comfort Travel Group Co, have agreed to jointly invest 2 billion yuan on an array of tourism projects, such as a stone folk dwelling transformation, farmhouse accommodation, camp destination for drivers, commercial zones, tourism and leisure resort, and hotels, in Pingtan.
In a similar pact, the Guowei Fortune Investment Holding Co decided to spend 10 billion yuan on tourism programs in Pingtan. The package included the construction of a seven-star hotel, several five-star hotels, commercial streets, a plaza for performances, an international yacht club and a park with touches of ecological sports.
In addition, Pingtan’s tourism practitioners are also more active in promotion of its tourism brand as well as Pingtan’s prominent advantage as a transportation hub in cross-Straits traffic.
"With more high-end tourism projects lined up for the future, Pingtan will ultimately and genuinely be an International Tourism Island,” said Lin.
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