Costly meal for Hainan

Updated: 2012-02-02 09:53

(China Daily)

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When a tourist to Hainan Island complained on his micro blog that he was charged 3,600 yuan ($571) for a simple three-dish meal at a seafood stall in Sanya during the Spring Festival holiday, local government officials responded to the widespread criticism it triggered by saying it had received no complaints about the service industry during the holiday week.

This sparked even more sarcasm and criticism from netizens, which prompted the local government to try and squirm away from the barrage of criticism by saying its remark about zero complaints only applied to food stalls. It then said it would prosecute anybody badmouthing Sanya.

Statistics show 484,000 tourists elbowed into Sanya, a coastal city of 685,000 permanent residents, during the Spring Festival holiday week, bringing 3.32 billion yuan of tourism revenue to the city.

But if the city fails to uphold the standard of service visitors expect or tolerates exploitation it will soon lose its attraction for many.

The local authority must not ignore the widespread online complaints about pricing and service and should investigate such complaints diligently.

The National Tourism Administration's report of 2011 ranked Sanya sixth from bottom in its tourist satisfaction list of 50 tourist cities. High prices were cited as the main reason for visitor dissatisfaction. In the report a year earlier it was ranked 24.

When the State Council earmarked Hainan as a world-class tourism island in 2010, the support of the central authority should have been the opportunity for the island to develop itself in an all-round way. But Sanya's rapid slide down the rankings and the growing numbers of tourists disappointed by their visits in the past two years show the local authority needs to make greater efforts if the island is to be world class.

It was encouraging then that the vice-governor of Hainan province was willing to face up squarely to the problems on Wednesday and pledged to strengthen supervision of service standards.

But how and when his words are translated into action remains a test for both the local authorities and residents.