Hainan inn chain seeks to promote eco-culture

Tourists participate in a bamboo pole dance at one of Feng Qingxiong's Forest Inn Resort chains. CHINA DAILY

Feng Qingxiong, a native of Hainan province, has tried to develop a chain of inns to share with visitors the eco-culture, tradition and lifestyle of the tropical island-elements that he says carry an everlasting charm and deserve to be protected.

With local Hainan elements blended and presented with ethnic folklore features, Feng's inns are becoming a window to display the natural and cultural essence of the island in southern China, and the homestay-style inns are often seeing room occupancy higher than 80 percent often.

The 49-year-old Feng, who is chairman of the board of directors of the Forest Inn Resort, attributes his success to the changes Hainan has seen during the country's reform and opening-up over the past 40 years.

"In 1978, my parents left me with my grandparents in a mountain village in Wanning in eastern Hainan, so that they could run a seafood business in Sanya, at the southern tip of Hainan," Feng recalls.

Feng says his parents' successful experience helped to cultivate his personality, giving him a broader vision, more curiosity for the outside world and the courage to explore new things.

He came to Haikou to seek a better education in 1988 and studied at a local TV university. That year Hainan was established by the central government as a province and a special economic zone. He then started to work at the Haikou Hotel, a top hotel in the city at the time, and then a travel agency for more than 10 years, becoming a manager and earning valuable experience in hotel and travel business management.

While the nation made great strides, Feng observes that the economic development caused environmental problems in some areas.

"I opened a city inn, in cooperation with friends, in Danzhou in western Hainan in 2010 to highlight the importance of a green lifestyle and to raise awareness for ecological protection," he says.

Feng registered his inn services, now eight in total, with more than 700 rooms, as Forest Inn Resorts, each of which are cultural landmarks in the places where they are located in Haikou, Danzhou, Boao, Wanning and Sanya.

At Feng's Forest Inn in Haikou, all door and bed frames are made of abandoned boat parts, while the walls are built from volcanic rocks bought from farmers living around the Haikou Volcanoes World Geopark. The tables are made of coconut trees and tropical decorations and fruits are seen around the lobby, which makes people feel the primitive essence of nature, as if they are in a mysterious forest.

"Everything reminds you of Hainan and shines with Hainan's character, either with classical beauty or modern style. It is a place that produces a retro feel, nostalgia and romance," reports a review on social media, posted by a user named "Xiaowen", who once stayed at the inn.

Feng says a good inn must provide warmth and appreciation of local culture. To design an inn is not simply to design a house-it should create a lifestyle that embodies the best of nature and the original culture of a place.

The Forest Inn chain has won awards as a top 100 homestay destination from the China Hotels Association and China Tourism Association.

Responsible editor: 胥圣兰

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