HAIKOU (Xinhua) – The southern tourist resort of Hainan now has another attraction to woo global tourists – the chance to live longer.
The island province has been declared a World Longevity Island by the International Expert Committee on Population Aging and Longevity (ISCPAL), according to a press conference held by the provincial government recently.
Alongside South Korea’s Jeju Island, Hainan was named one of the world’s two longevity islands thanks to its outstanding natural environment and social welfare system. The committee decided to honour the province after conducting field research in 17 towns and counties in 2013.
Hainan trumpets a record of more than 1,900 centenarians and about 1.2 million residents above the age of 60 by the end of 2013, amounting to about 13.36 per cent of its total population, according to the provincial committee on ageing. By 2015, the number of octogenarians is expected to reach 170,000.
The tropical island is bestowed with high-quality air and water. A study by the ISCPAL showed that the hair of Hainan’s centenarians has ample trace elements, which are beneficial to human health. For instance, the soil and produce in Chengmai county in western Hainan are rich in selenium.
A couple of localities in Hainan had already been branded as “Longevity Cities” before the island was honoured, including Chengmai and the forest-rich Wanning. Wenchang City is also famed as one of the country’s top longevity spots.
The latest certification is likely to give Hainan extra firepower in the tourism market and stir a new round of health tourists, as has been the case for other places known for longevity in the country.
Last year, the media in China reported a huge number of tourists travelling to the famous Bama County, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to seek the recipe for a long life. The county’s “longevity pilgrims” can be seen crawling around on four legs and are even known to drink urine, believing the practices help keep illness at bay.
The reputation of the remote county is so widespread that it has even attracted a number of people who travel from far away to live in Bama.
This group is nicknamed “houniaoren”, or “migratory people”, with lives like those of migratory birds – flying south in winter and staying in Bama for several months.
Government statistics show that in 2012 alone about 180,000 migratory people visited Bama.
Hainan had been seeing a similar occurrence, but now, with official recognition under its belt, the fervour is likely to increase.
By way of capitalising, Hainan has stepped up efforts in building itself as an international tourism island, an ambitious scheme in line with a 2010 national strategy.
For example, the Hainan Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone, the only national pilot programme in medical tourism granted by the State Council, is now under construction, featuring healthcare and longevity-related services.
The Chinese health sector is expected to grow into an 800-million-yuan (129 million US dollars) industry by 2020 and will be a powerful driver for domestic consumption and employment, as it covers a wide range of services and a long industrial chain, said Li Bin, head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission.