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Asia Minute: “China’s Hawai‘i” Shifts Approach on Tourism Growth

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The final numbers are not in yet, but expectations are that 2017 will turn out to be another record year for tourism in Hawai‘i. Conversations are continuing about balancing tourism growth with protection of natural resources around the state. But elsewhere in the Pacific, an island that likes to compare itself to Hawai‘i is making some changes. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Hainan Island likes to market itself as “China’s Hawai‘i.” It does have beaches and palm trees. And there are some similarities to Hawai‘i’s agricultural past. Sugar cane grows on the island – which is also China’s leading producer of pineapples.

But the biggest parallel involves tourism.

About eight years ago, the central government announced plans to make Hainan an “international tourist destination.” Today, you can book a Hainan vacation at a Sheraton, a Marriott, a Ritz Carlton, a Mandarin Oriental or any other of a number of well-known international brands.

But now political leaders in Beijing want to slow the pace.

Inspectors for the Ministry of Environmental Protection say rapid development has been “destroying the ecology for the sake of money” and “tailoring government plans for property developers.”

This was not the result of any crusading non-governmental organization or international nonprofit: the news was published last week by Xinhua—the official government news agency.

The story includes a new approach to evaluating government employees—no longer based on traditional measures such as economic growth.

Environmental protection efforts will now be emphasized—including use of resources, and other measures.

The state-run China Daily says promotions for government workers will be based in large part on their ability to “build the local ecological civilization.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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