Sanya and Dubai join forces to provide culinary masterpieces

Chef Ali El Bourji from Atlantis Dubai is invited to present authentic Dubai cuisine in Sanya, Hainan province. [Photo provided to]

The “Encountering Marvels of Mountains & Seas” themed event kicked off in Sanya, South China’s Hainan province on Wednesday.

The highlight of the event is “A Bite in Two Cities”, which is being jointly held by the two renowned resorts – Atlantis Sanya and Atlantis Dubai – for the first time, offering guests a feast of authentic cuisine from both cities.

Arabic executive chef Ali El Bourji from Atlantis Dubai was invited to present authentic Dubai cuisine in Sanya, featuring delicacies such as chicken tagine, authentic Lebanese fattoush salad.

The Dubai Food Festival in Sanya will last for two weeks, including the entire May Day Golden Week.

According to Dubai Tourism Board, gourmet cuisine is one of Dubai’s proud features and “The Michelin Guide Dubai 2023” features 90 restaurants spanning 23 different cuisines, and Dubai restaurants claimed 18 spots in the top 50 of the 2024 Middle East and North Africa Best Restaurants Awards; all these achievements combined highlight Dubai’s status as a culinary hub.

Both Sanya and Dubai are renowned cities for their abundant tourism resources and internationalized services. “A Bite in Two Cities” is a tourism marketing and promotion event jointly launched by Sanya Tourism Board, Atlantis Sanya, Atlantis Dubai and Dubai Tourism Board. It is also an important step of the Sanya Tourism Board to innovate overseas tourism marketing and promotion models.

“I hope this event will not only be an exchange of cuisine and culture, but will also further promote the deepening and expansion of cooperation between Sanya and the Middle East in tourism, culture and other fields,” said Albert Yip, director general of Sanya Tourism Board.

H.E. Mariam Alshamsi, the Consul General of the United Arab Emirates in Guangzhou, also sent a congratulatory letter, wishing the event a great success. She affirmed that the Dubai Food Festival in Sanya is a concentrated showcase of tourism resources in Sanya, China and Dubai, UAE, as well as an innovative exploration of the historical and cultural heritage of both sides.

Cao Minglong, president and chief operation officer of Fosun Tourism Group, which owns Atlantis Sanya, said: “Over the past six years, Atlantis Sanya has been committed to delivering innovative content and excellent services, providing our guests with a spectacular experience and upgrading tourism consumption in Sanya. Looking ahead, we will continue to make breakthroughs, attract more guests from around the world, and turn Atlantis Sanya into a leading tourist destination in the Asia-Pacific region and even the whole world, contributing to building Hainan into an international tourism consumption center.”

On Wednesday evening, combining the legend of Atlantis with the ancient Chinese myth “Classic of Mountains and Seas”, a 20-minute immersive audio-visual show was also held. Thousands of drones soared into the night sky creating a dazzling display of lights and shapes, while tens of thousands of aerial fireworks illuminated the darkness with bursts of color and sound.

Tourism in third-, lower-tier cities set to boom over May Day holidays

Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Daxing International Airport

Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Daxing International Airport

Chinese third- and fourth-tier cities – and even smaller ones – are set to be popular during the upcoming May Day holidays, per industry data, as market watchers said the trend shows that China’s tourism market is steadily recovering, which will further boost consumption. 

According to data from Ctrip, China’s online travel agency, domestic long-distance travel bookings account for 56 percent of total orders during the May Day holidays, with many tourists opting for lower-tier cities as their destinations. Hotel bookings in county-level markets have seen a year-on-year increase of 68 percent, while orders for scenic spot tickets surged by 151 percent.

Driven by concerts, music festivals and social media accounts of local authorities, third-tier and lower-tier cities have seen a surge in popularity. Data from Tongcheng Travel show that compared with core cities, there has been a relatively larger increase in demand for train and plane tickets to third-tier and lower-tier cities during the upcoming holidays.

The hotel booking index for third-tier and below cities has increased by 76 percent year-on-year, nearly a threefold increase compared with 2019. The popularity of train and plane tickets to third-tier and below cities during the May Day holidays has increased by more than 360 percent on a week-on-week basis, according to Tongcheng Travel.

Changing consumer habits could be one of the reasons, which means people are shifting away from crowded popular cities and attractions toward places with unique natural landscapes and local customs, Wang Jinwei, an associate professor at the Tourism Sciences Institute of Beijing International Studies University, told the Global Times.


Driven by the rural revitalization strategy, efforts to promote rural civilization have created a favorable cultural environment, and this trend has brought more popularity to rural regions, Wang explained.

Zhang Zonggang, a Beijing resident, told the Global Times she plans to visit Mangshi, a city in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, with her relatives during the coming holidays. “We prefer to avoid crowded places as we’ll be with children and are seeking to experience the leisurely and tranquil lifestyle of the small town. It’s also cost-effective compared with the first-tier cities.”

Market watchers said that rising travel demand in third- and lower-tier cities will boost consumption.

China’s GDP grew by 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2024, well above market expectations as the world’s second-largest economy got off to a robust start. Data from National Bureau of Statistics showed that retail sales grew 4.7 percent year-on-year to 12.03 trillion yuan ($1.66 trillion) in the first quarter.

The popularity of tourism in third-tier and lower-tier cities will not decline; instead, it will become a major trend for Chinese tourists, said Deng Ning, a vice dean of the Tourism Sciences Institute at Beijing International Studies University.