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Shoppers’ paradise on Hainan Island gives Hong Kong a run for its moneyMassive mall on Hainan is drawing away from city mainlanders keen to snap up luxury goods at duty-free prices while enjoying beach holidayHe Huifeng03 October 2014He Huiying, a 27-year-old white-collar worker from Guangzhou, enjoyed the perfect vacation last month in Sanya on Hainan Island, where she whiled away the hours on the beach, stayed at a luxurious hotel and shopped at the world’s largest duty-free shopping centre, the newly opened Sanya Haitang Bay International Shopping Mall.She originally planned a holiday in Hong Kong, but changed her mind on hearing of big promotions offered at the Haitang Bay mall.Following the mall’s opening on September 1, Sanya has set itself up to rival Hong Kong as the No 1 spot for legions of mainland shoppers with an insatiable appetite for luxury goods.The biggest mall of its kind in the world, covering a gross floor area of 120,000 square metres, sells duty-free goods by more than 300 international brands, ranging from perfume and skincare products to jewellery, watches and fashion goods.On its opening day, the 5 billion yuan (HK$6.3 billion) mall, run by state-owned China Duty Free Group, attracted 30,000 people, who snapped up 37 million yuan worth of goods.The mall is expected to provide a big boost for China’s duty-free industry, after the central government introduced a policy allowing tourists to buy up to 5,000 yuan worth of goods duty free on the island. The cap was later raised to 8,000 yuan.“Big promotions are ongoing at the Haitang Bay duty-free shopping centre to attract domestic travellers from across the country,” said Zhao Jing, a spokesman for the mall.“In future, we will make sure our prices are competitive with Hong Kong by launching promotions frequently at times such as Christmas and Lunar New Year.”Customers shopping at the Haitang Bay centre told the South China Morning Post they were surprised that prices for many goods at the mall were competitive with those in Hong Kong.Other items were between 5 and 10 per cent more expensive than in Hong Kong, He said, “but that’s not too much”.She spent 3,600 yuan at the mall on a Citizen watch that costs HK$4,000 in Hong Kong and 4,500 yuan in other mainland cities. She was also offered a 1,000-yuan coupon to celebrate the mall’s opening, which she used to pay for a Dior perfume and foundation. “It’s a super deal. I will come again if there’s a similar promotion in future,” she said.But others in Sanya were still touting Hong Kong as the best place in Asia to shop.“Nowhere in Asia can compare with Hong Kong for mainlanders shopping for luxury goods,” said Kandy Xie, a holidaymaker from Liaoning province, who said she usually visited Hong Kong twice a year. “The outlets and brands are much more plentiful.”Xie said she spends between HK$20,000 and HK$30,000 each trip, which included her plane ticket, hotel and shopping.But for activities other than shopping, Xie said Hainan was becoming a better choice.“When it comes to an enjoyable vacation, I think Sanya is becoming a strong competitor for Hong Kong. You don’t need a visa to visit Sanya or spend hours at a border checkpoint,” she said.“For what I spend on a tiny hotel room in Hong Kong, I can stay at a luxury beach resort in Sanya,” she said. “It costs only 200 yuan to rent a car to drive around the coast for a day.“That wouldn’t even pay for a taxi from the border to Hong Kong Disneyland.”After the introduction of the duty-free policy in 2011, two duty-free stores opened in Hainan - one in Sanya and one in Haikou, the provincial capital.By the following year, tourism revenues in Hainan had reached nearly 38 billion yuan, up 17 per cent on the previous year. Last year more than 36 million people visited Hainan and bought more than 3.4 billion yuan worth of duty-free goods.
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