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The United States is just one of 59 countries that recently received the green light for citizens to visit China‘s Hainan Island without needing a visa.

In a move designed to spur economic growth and boost tourism in the southern province, the Chinese State Immigration Authority announced on April 25 that passport holders from the US, the United Kingdom, Canada and dozens of other European and Asian countries will be able to enter the “Hawaii of China” for up to 30 days, beginning May 1.

The decision expands a policy enacted in 2000, which allowed tour groups from 21 designated countries to visit Hainan for up to two weeks without a visa. The terms of Wednesday’s announcement allow individual travelers to enter Hainan on their own, as well as allows travelers to extend the duration of their stay.

China’s airlines, including Hainan’s flagship carrier Hainan Airlines, stand to benefit the most from the decision. Chong Tai-Leung, an associate professor of economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post that the policy change should sharply increase the number of international tourists traveling to Hainan.

Although Hainan has long been promoted as “China’s Hawaii,” the province historically has been considered a “backwater afterthought”, according to the South China Morning Post. The tropical island lies north of the South China Sea, bordered by Vietnam to the west and the Philippines to the east. Out of the more than 60 million visitors to Hainan in 2017, only 1 million (just 1.6%) were international tourists — the rest were Chinese nationals. In contrast, Bali, which is one-sixth the size of Hainan, hosted more than 5 million foreigners in 2017.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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