An archipelago's allure

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

Updated: 2019-06-25

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Zhuhai city's Wanshan district boasts 105 islets. It has become an emerging destination for its leisure, scenery and outdoor activities. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhuhai's islands are becoming ports of call for a growing number of visitors, Xu Lin reports.

The isles of Zhuhai city's Wanshan district are striving to become a destination that lures visitors with leisure, scenery and outdoor activities.

The district in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, boasts 105 islets and 4,500 square kilometers of sea. Only five of the islands are inhabited and they have become bastions for travelers in recent years.

Authorities unveiled a development outline in February to boost the maritime economy and make the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area a world-class destination.

Two months later, the central government announced plans to transform Zhuhai's Hengqin Island into an international travel destination. Officials aim to create itineraries exploring the greater bay area focusing on Hengqin Island in Hengqin district and the surrounding Wanshan islets.

"Wanshan has become an emerging destination in recent years," says the district's management board director, Lyu Hongzhen.

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Zhuhai city's Wanshan district boasts 105 islets. It has become an emerging destination for its leisure, scenery and outdoor activities. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Tourism has become a pillar industry."

And that industry, she says, is aiming at the high end.

"Visitors can travel among several beautiful islands over four to seven days and live like locals. They can enjoy pretty views and delicious seafood, and take part in activities such as diving, rock climbing and fishing. They can see sunrises, sunsets and starry skies."

Visitors can tour the historical sites at Dong'ao Island, such as the customs office built in 1898, a fortress and a 290-year-old beacon tower, as well as traditional Chinese buildings.

"The islanders are very friendly, "says Wu Zhaoji, a 24-year-old postgraduate student from Guangdong's capital, Guangzhou, who recently visited Guishan Island.

"I like to walk on the wooden-plank road and enjoy the poems carved into the rocks."

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An event in Beijing promotes Wanshan's rich tourism resources. [Photo provided to China Daily]

It takes about an hour by boat from Zhuhai's Xiangzhou port to reach Wanshan's major islands. Helicopter trips take about 15 to 20 minutes. A one-way chopper ticket to Dong'ao Island costs 1,299 yuan ($188), and the round trip is 1,599 yuan.

Lyu recently led a group of government officials and travel agency representatives to stage a promotional event in Beijing.

She says Wanshan's tourism authorities hope to attract more tourists from the capital, since the city hosts a relatively large number of people who enjoy traveling. They also hope to cooperate with partners such as travel agencies and learn from the city's marketing expertise.

Tourism authorities also aspire to attract more travelers from nearby areas since Zhuhai is well-situated at the center of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

The opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge's in October 2018 offers easier access to Wanshan. Direct flights link Guishan and Hong Kong, and plans call for cruises connecting Guishan and Macao.

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[Photo provided to China Daily]

Wanshan welcomed over 563,000 tourists last year, a 3.2 percent increase over 2017. About 487,000 made overnight stays. Tourism revenue reached 433 million yuan in 2018, a 14 percent year-on-year increase.

The Dong'ao and Wai Lingding islands are rated as national-AAAA scenic areas. The local government is working to upgrade them to AAAAA, the top rating.

Lyu says district authorities are also striving to improve the islands' environment, infrastructure and tourism resources to entice more visitors and prolong their stays.

Guishan has invested 30 million yuan in improving its two villages through such measures as rebuilding local residences and improving infrastructure.

The island has established high-quality bed-and-breakfasts with 190 rooms in total. Visitors can appreciate decor that blends traditional Chinese elements with ocean themes.

Wanshan is also cultivating its wedding industry, promoting outdoor activities and hosting fishing competitions, Lyu says.

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[Photo provided to China Daily]

The first seaside-matrimony event will be held on Dong'ao between Sept 27 and 29.

Seventy couples from different cities will gather for group ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of New China's founding.

"The island will witness their love," Lyu says.

"Newlyweds can also enjoy beach parties, photography and banquets."

Wanshan will host gastronomical events, mountain marathons and sailing contests this year and next.

Indeed, it seems that Zhuhai's islands are emerging from the sea as attractions set to draw more visitors with their siren songs of natural charm, cultural activities and increasingly convenient access.

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