Travellers from 59 countries can now take advantage of visa-free access to Hainan, China’s southernmost island province.

Under the new policy, group and individual tourists from 59 countries, including Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and the USA, can visit Hainan visa-free and stay there for up to 30 days when booking a tour through a travel agency.

The seaside city has offered a 15-day visa-free stay for tourist groups from 21 countries since 2000, and added another five countries to the list in 2010.

“The government aims to attract more international tourists, nurture the tourism industry and meet the needs of foreign individuals,” said the administration’s vice head Qu Yunhai.

The eased visa-free access to Hainan is part of China’s effort to build the province into a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.

The island has become a famous tropical resort for overseas tourists in recent years, with the number of overseas tourists exceeding 1.1 million in 2017, up nearly 50 per cent over the previous year. Last year, Hainan drew nearly 320,000 tourists from the 26 countries with visa-free access, 3.5 times the number recorded in 2016. Tourists from Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Russia accounted for more than 90 per cent of the total.

“The policy will inject vitality into Hainan and bring us closer to our goal of becoming a world-class destination,” said Sun Ying, director of Hainan Tourism Development Commission.

More direct flights are planned to countries with visa-free access. Hainan already has 57 international flights to countries including Germany, Malaysia and Thailand, with plans for at least 16 new overseas routes this year. It aims to have at least 100 overseas routes by 2020.