Monday, 30 April 2012

A Lesson from Hainan

Famed Yalong Bay in Sanya
There is a lesson to be learnt when there is over-promise - and failure to deliver the goods. A case in point - Hainan island in the Republic of China, touted to be the Hawaii of the East. 
My recent holiday to Hainan blew to pieces whatever illusion I had of this supposedly enchanting jewel of the East  that so proudly fashions itself after Hawaii, from its glossy marketing of tropical and sandy beaches to its greeting of "Yanuda" inspired by Hawaii's "Aloha".

I wonder if the relevant tourism authority marketing Hainan has pondered over the potential damage to Hainan's reputation from its over-sell and over-kill approach? Travellers are promised an unforgettable experience. 

A 3-star toilet in the Yanuda Rainforest?

Unforgettable? I am back in Singapore, yet warning bells still ring in my head of opportunistic men and women selling something or other at literally every turn in the Yanuda rainforest. Imagine being accosted yet again, between breathing the fresh air and digesting what our tour guide said about Hainan being China's second largest producer of herbal medicines or something. At some point somewhere - and everyday during my holiday - I recall being asked if I wanted to pose for a picture with a peacock, a rabbit and a turtle - for a fee. 

How about buying a calendar or a keychain with my photos in them? Would I like a free massage, only to be told I have to watch my (healthy as far as I know) kidney and liver functions, and I am prescribed some medicine. Do I fancy tea leaves plucked from a 1,000-year-old tree? How about a Las Vegas-style dinner show? Not interested? A dinner cruise? And so it goes on and on. If anything, my hosts must be credited for their dogged determination and resourcefulness in the battle of mettles and the wrestle for our Singapore dollars.

Six days in Hainan, and I swear I spent only a quarter of the time seeing the sights and sounds of the famous Sanya and Hainan's capital, Haikou. Mostly, my fellow travelers and I had to go through the many commercial stops in the tour itinerary ironically designed for our maximum relaxation! 

What about the coconut  trees and white sandy beaches? I am glad to concede that they do exist - at Yalong Bay in Sanya.  My advice to the tourism authority is to get the basics right before doing a cosmetic sales pitch. Drop the charade and stop promoting Hainan as a Hawaii copycat. Sanya's Yalong Bay may offer a nice stretch of beach, but so do Bali, Hua Hin, Kuantan and the Maldives, to mention a few.     

Hainan must surely pay a high price for raising expectations through slick marketing while ignoring the basics.  How about keeping public toilets clean, having more coffee bars for tourists to chill out, and where are the tourist information booths that are nearly everywhere along Shanghai's Nanjing Street and Bali's Kuta beach?

Everything else being equal, a good product and slick marketing can sit nicely to give tourists like my fellow travelers and I a relatively pleasant experience.   What I have seen of Hainan so far has put me off a second visit. 

Hainan disappoints as it has failed to rise to its brand promise.

No comments:

Post a Comment