Surrounded by sea

By Yang Feiyue(China Daily)
Updated: 2017-05-22 07:44:31

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Islands have long been associated with paradise, but it's only recently that a growing number of affluent Chinese travelers have started heading to archipelagos during summer sojourns.

This recently prompted HHtravel, the high-end brand of China's largest online travel agency, Ctrip, to release a list of the top summer islands for luxury travelers.

Fiji, the Canary Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, Mauritius, the Maldives, Bali and Thailand's Koh Samui take the top spots.

The number of tourists who booked trips to these islands through HHtravel surged 70 percent year-on-year in 2016, says the company's chief operating officer, Guo Ming.

Tahiti, Fiji's Laucala Island, Mauritius. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Their spending averaged around 120,000-140,000 yuan ($17,435-$20,340).

These destinations' popularity is in part because over half of them offer visa-free entry to Chinese, Guo explains.

Many host private resorts, often located on smaller isles near the main one.

Fiji has experienced the fastest growth in Chinese visitors through HHtravel, at about 70 percent. Tropical rainforests, white beaches and clear seas that make for spectacular snorkeling are major draws, as is the unique local culture.

Visitors can also enjoy crab races, beachside bonfires and dips in mud pools.

Thailand's Koh Samui. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Fiji's Laucala Island hosts volcanic mountains covered with lush vegetation, pristine mangrove thickets and colorful coral reefs that brim with life.

The Laucala Island Resort is a private refuge with 25 villas built according to local architectural styles set amid 4.5 square kilometers of coconut plantations. It also offers gourmet dining.

The island's cultural village is designed to preserve and showcase local traditions.

Visitors can enjoy lovo, or ground-oven festivals, and traditional music. Or they can learn such local crafts as weaving, carving and making masi textiles, which are created using bark and adorned with elaborate geometric patterns.

Tahiti has seen a 55 percent surge of bookings by wealthy Chinese through HHtravel. Its wonderful weather, captivating culture and stunning scenery have long made it a luxury and honeymoon destination.

Hawaii's Oahu Island. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Lovers particularly enjoy helicopter rides over the heart-shaped Tupai Island.

Villas are popular with well-heeled travelers in The Brando-an escape enveloped by clear waters and white beaches.

Activities in Brando include snorkeling among coral reefs, diving, paddle boating, yoga and canoeing. The resort also offers Polynesian arts and culture classes like dance, handicraft and ukulele lessons.

Newlyweds often participate in local song-and-dance ceremonies to proclaim their vows of love before a mountain that's traditionally considered sacred.

Likewise, Spain's Canary Islands have experienced a 40 percent growth in HHtravel bookings.

"Most are family travelers," Guo says.

The Maldives and Bali are among a list of the top summer islands for luxury travelers. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Their numbers peak during summer vacations."

Many visit between December and February to avoid China's winters.

The Canary Islands have long remained a perennial favorite of global travelers for their mild climate, volcanoes and carnivals.

Many rich Chinese opt for star-viewing experiences at night and watch whales and dolphins during the daytime on Tenerife, the archipelago's biggest body.

Tenerife's Gran Bahia Del Duque Resort offers sea-view rooms with beach access.

The nearby island of Gran Canaria hosts the former residence of celebrated Chinese writer Sanmao, which is a big attraction for the Chinese, Guo says.

"The island's views, featuring beaches on one side and deserts on the other, are breathtaking," Guo says.

Released by HHtravel. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Hawaii's ancient ethnic villages and natural landscapes also lure the rich Chinese.

It hosts one of the United States' most popular restaurants, Mama's Fish House. The establishment run by native Hawaiians has long ranked among the country's favorites not only for its gastronomy but also for its setting, in which guests enjoy meals under coconut trees.

The Halekulani on Oahu Island and the Ritz-Carlton on Maui attract large numbers of affluent Chinese, HHtravel says.

Mauritius appeals to lovebirds, daredevils and superstars.

It has attracted roughly 90,000 Chinese annually in recent years, Mauritius' tourism authority reports.

The country offers family honeymoon, outdoor sports and golf trips that feature unique flora and fauna, and aboriginal culture and history.

The high-end brand of the online travel agency Ctrip. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The Chinese also appreciate its regular festivals and events.

The sumptuous Cheval Blanc Randheli hotel between Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy has attracted countless celebrities since it opened.

Luxury travelers enjoy its intelligent-furniture system and luxury-spa experiences, Guo says.

The LE 1947 offers Michelin-starred French cuisine.

Indonesia's Bali has gained new star power among well-to-do Chinese since the island served as a shooting site for the hit film Eat, Pray, Love, Guo says.

Contact the writer at yangfeiyue@chinadaily.com.cn

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