Chinese move could improve tourist awareness of Spratly Islands

The Spratly group of islands, the ownership status of which is currently the subject of a dispute between China and the Philippines, could soon see an increase in tourist potential if a Chinese plan is successful.

According to reports, a city in southern China is planning to extend a tourism route to the disputed islands in the West Philippines Sea. State media in China said that Sanya City, a well-known tourist destination in the Southern Chinese province of Hainan, was planning to expand tourism to the islands. As per the 10-year plan, Sanya was planning to add the island chains of Zhongsha and Nansha (the Spratlys) to a cruise route. The move would be certain to enhance tourism in the area.

The planned route would extend the luxury cruise lane that is now being tested to the Xisha Islands, media reports have claimed. The Xisha islands are one of the major island groups in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea. Chinese authorities said that the Sanya City tourism plan, to run from 2012 to 2022, had passed an expert panel’s evaluation. It is further believed that the plan is waiting to be approved and endorsed by provincial authorities in Hainan.

Earlier this year, tourism officials had tested a cruise to Yongxing, which is the main island in the Xisha island chain. It is expected that the island chain will be opened to tourists within a year. The ten-year plan to develop the islands will also include two other island chains to the cruise lane, Zhongsha and the Spratlys.

While China has laid claim to all of the Spratlys, they are partially claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Sansha City was constituted to administer these three island groups in the disputed waters.