台商20年目睹海南現狀

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2012 / 9月

文‧朱立群 圖‧林格立


除了農業,台商還帶了哪些「台灣經驗」前去建設海南?

大陸官方打造海南成為國際旅遊島的政策走向,對台商而言,是強迫退場?還是另闢戰區?又該掌握哪些生存法則?


海南曾是古代流放逆臣之地,也曾是與世隔絕的海上孤島,大陸改革開放總設計師鄧小平所做關於「好好發展起來,是很了不起」的講話,為海南島日後的建設,打下了堅實的基礎。

1988年,中國第一個、同時也是至今唯一的省級經濟特區成立,海南,為西進投資的台商,開了一扇新的機會之窗。

然而,相較於深圳、珠海等城市型特區,海南的經濟量體不及全中國的1%,開發程度最低,島內農村遍布,民生建設薄弱,總體發展落後。二十多年來,台商在此開闢新天地,即使不是從事農業,挑戰卻也同樣艱鉅。

先開先倒?

台商在海南創下的另一個「第一」,還包括建造海南第一座、大陸第三座高爾夫球場。

1989年起建、1992年開幕的台達高球場,區位極佳,距海口美蘭國際機場僅4公里,在海南高爾夫度假文化的荒漠裡澆下第一滴養液,功不可沒。

台達創辦人、前任董事長陳清泉接受大陸媒體訪問時表示,選擇投資高爾夫球場有兩大原因:海南獨特的熱帶氣候條件,以及招商政策的優惠。

確實,這兩大誘因陸續吸引其他台商跟進投資,1997年開幕的東山及依必朗,在90年代與台達在海南高爾夫球會圈內三足鼎立。

然而好景曇花一現,老字號的台達於2009年被陸資中信集團收購,而據《新浪網》報導,依必朗來客「一天不到10人」,球場慘澹經營,待價而沽。

唯一還在正常營運的東山高爾夫球場,近年加入FGT集團(依不同度假季節組成的球會聯盟),則仰賴南韓球友冬季組團包機前來打球的收入,以及經營者在大陸內地從事房地產投資獲利的挹注,還能勉強撐住。

東山湖高爾夫旅業開發有限公司董事長,同時也是7月剛卸任海南省台資企業協會會長的謝進旺表示,東山高爾夫球場占地1,800畝(約5座台北大安森林公園),含土地在內,總投資金額約人民幣一億元,雇用員工約三百人,每年光營運成本即高達人民幣1,200萬元。

「如果只靠打球收入,這球場早就倒了,」謝進旺感嘆說。

「特區」誘惑

20年前,台商打造果嶺、球道,替海南高爾夫球運動開路;20年後,球場的經營苟延殘喘,賣的賣、收的收,投資成敗的關鍵問題出在哪裡?

「當年實在太過樂觀,」謝進旺毫不遲疑地回答:「我們都是衝著『經濟特區』而來,認定(高爾夫運動消費市場)以後一定會好,很多事情沒有考慮到。」

那麼,哪些面向,讓謝進旺等台資業者,事先疏於意料?

首先,大陸高爾夫運動人口明顯被高估。

謝進旺表示,單就海口而言,1992年全市高球運動人口約600人,光是養活一家台達球場已顯吃力;目前雖倍增至三、四千人,但海口及其周邊縣市球場數亦增至10家,除了客源分散,設備老舊,也使台資老球場處於市場競爭的劣勢,難敵觀瀾湖、天峽等近年蓋起的新球場。

另一方面,大陸內地城市興建高球場熱潮方興未艾,導致球場供過於求。

80年代中期之前,高爾夫因具資產階級色彩而遭共產黨打壓,直至1984年,大陸才在廣東省建造第一座高爾夫球場。90年代起,內地球場大量冒出,對本已生存困難、期待擴增內地客源的海南球場,更形雪上加霜。

「海南已不再是北方球友冬季打球的唯一選擇。」謝進旺表示,內地飛海南的機票一旦漲價,海南球場的吸引力,完全不敵國際觀光業已發展成熟的泰國。

針對海南發展國際旅遊島,投資高爾夫球場是否對台商還有吸引力?謝進旺搖頭表示,未來已不可能租到一、兩千畝的土地;再者,大陸高球運動人口仍未到位,目前只有廣東、上海、北京等大城市風氣較盛,天時、地利、人和的條件,海南無一具備。

千禧海南

2000年可說是台商投資海南的分水嶺。之前,台商從事農業者最多,其次是房地產開發,這些都與土地息息相關;然而,一旦遇到政府徵地或房產泡沫化,投資環境便陷入瓶頸,台商若非轉行另謀出路,即被迫打包回台。

這群因看好特區前景而來到海南的台商老將,上島時的年紀約莫四十多歲,經歷過大片土地廉價買賣的黃金年代;近幾年目睹土地被徵、面臨無地可用的窘境,不勝欷噓。

與上一代台商長輩不同的是,千禧年後來到海南者,上島時的年齡僅約二、三十歲,有的大學剛畢業就被安排接班。新一代的年輕台商所面對的,已不是才剛踏出改革開放腳步的舊海南,而是戮力成為旅遊天堂的新海南。

這群大多屬於「80後」的台商,熱烈擁抱創新密集、行銷領先與強調靈活人脈的服務業;對他們而言,土地密集的農業與資本密集的房地產投資事業,已走入黃昏。

坐在台商Marco位在三亞灣旁的店裡,可以嗅到這樣的氛圍。

遊憩至上

人稱Marco的張浩綱,2007年來到海南,他的舅舅盧文彬與盧文裕,前者是上海早苗集團的創辦人兼總經理,後者是台灣BinGo-C冰果師冰品連鎖店的董事長。

1976年次的Marco,目前在三亞經營兩家休閒餐飲店,並總管冰果師今年7月在海南昌江開幕的水果加工廠。

走進Marco位在三亞解放路鬧區附近大樓頂樓陽台的早苗咖啡,客人清一色是年輕族群,傍晚開始,這裡是欣賞三亞灣夜景的絕佳地點;Marco把店定位成「輕吧」,雖是咖啡店,最受歡迎的卻是輕酒精飲料。

Marco的另一家店,則是開在海南國家級南山大佛風景區內的冰果師冰品店,年中開幕,販賣芒果、草莓等鮮果超低溫急速冷凍後製成的冰淇淋、冰沙等。

Marco表示,目前冷凍鮮果原料都從台灣空運而來,待昌江的加工廠啟用後,將以海南台商種的水果為冰品原料;此外,還將加工水果餡料,未來透過上海早苗集團上游原物料通路,銷至克莉斯汀等內地知名烘焙業者。

冰果師南山大佛店冰品售價與台北分店不相上下,Marco表示,選址在觀光景點就是考量產品價格,來自內地北方的遊客消費能力遠高於海南當地民眾,門市如果開在市區,恐無人上門。

冰果師約兩百坪店面一年店租高達人民幣250萬元(約台幣1,250萬元),Marco表示,同樣租金,在三亞市區「邊邊角落只能租到一戶小店面」,可見在三亞開店成本之高,非一般小額投資者所能承受。

除了Marco身兼老闆與伙計之外,晚近到海南工作的年輕人,也有像三亞木耳朵餐飲管理顧問公司經理曾彥為一樣,受雇於台商老闆,但本身不負經營盈虧之責。

木耳朵也是一家冰品店,開在三亞目前最熱鬧時髦的亞龍灣。現齡30歲的曾彥為在台有多年擔任西點廚師的經驗,2006年應前老闆之邀到三亞打拚,現已決定下半輩子都要在海南度過。「三亞慵懶的步調很合我的個性,」他說。

曾彥為表示,海南水果種類多樣,且幾乎都是台灣的品種,加上三亞作為一座旅遊城市,本身沒有工業的污染,因此種出的水果品質有些甚至比台灣的好;利用此一優勢,木耳朵投入水果的深加工,製作水果冰淇淋、雪酪冰品,在自有門市販售,也賣到五星級飯店餐廳,兩者業績各占營業收入的一半。

曾彥為表示,原以為海南天氣熱,吃冰是理所當然,但到了三亞才發現,反而是從北方前來過冬的觀光客較愛吃冰。因此,木耳朵的經營策略與冰果師雷同,鎖定花錢不手軟的內地觀光客為核心客群。

到海南旅遊的觀光客,確實已對海南經濟做出極大貢獻。根據中國(海南)改革發展研究院的估算,2010年海南省旅遊收入逼近人民幣290億元,預估2020年將上看兩千億元。

無庸置疑,三亞是海南磁吸外地觀光客最多的城市。三亞鳳凰機場地勤人員表示,去年到訪旅客約一千萬人次,其中約有9成來自內地。

休閒萬歲

確實,自從中共國家主席胡錦濤2008年指示「海南要大力發展以旅遊業為龍頭的現代服務業」之後,整個海南,尤其三亞,便毫無顧忌地朝此目標奔去,觀光休閒財,也成了各方資金挹注海南的主要投資標的。

凡爾賽飲食娛樂管理公司三亞區域總監蔡宗希,是三亞台資企業協會會長蔡寶良之子,年僅29歲就已接手家族在三亞經營的餐廳與KTV事業。

他建議,未來台商投資海南,應選「夠大」、「夠特別」(如三亞目前尚無大型主題遊樂園)、「夠平民」(如平價KTV),以及「夠高級」(如五星級酒店)的項目,以休閒旅遊為中心,各自區隔市場;會賺錢的事業,鈔票不一定來自「多數」消費者,更多時候是來自「目標」客群。

台商在三亞投資、經營的準五星級黎客國際酒店執行副總黃雅玲表示,除了金錢資本之外,海南其實更缺「人才資本」;她認為,以台灣的服務業品質為基準,相較之下,海南從業人員普遍缺乏「對detail(細節)精緻度的要求」。

基層員工對工作「不在乎」的程度,幾度讓黃雅玲傻眼。她說,多次提醒員工把「請、謝謝、對不起」等服務業基本禮貌用語掛在嘴邊,但「你教一次,他們忘三次;教三次,忘五次。」

再者,三亞多的是飯店,到處是職缺,但也因為如此,員工流動率高,普遍抱有「這家不做換別家」的心態。黃雅玲表示,當地員工不好找,為了一個飯店的職缺,徵人的時間可以花上一個月;更誇張的是,甚至有應徵者在履歷上載明:應徵動機是「混一天,是一天。」

「服務業的品質,就是教育與文化素質的反映!」看到台灣的大專院校每年訓練出那麼多餐旅休閒科系畢業生,黃雅玲建議這些初出校園的社會新鮮人,如果可不計較三亞當地飯店每月僅人民幣1,400元(約台幣7,000元)的基本起薪,不妨到這個大陸近年最火熱的冬季度假聖地工作一段時間,必能打開眼界、豐富人生的履歷。

今日的海南,縱使還有過去的影子,但已不是1988年經濟特區成立時的海南。

老一代的台商經歷過便宜購地時的興高采烈,房產泡沫化時的血本無歸,以及農地被徵時的錐心泣血;對於有志進軍新海南的投資者,他們良心的忠告是:「口袋不夠深的,千萬別來!」

「沒有選對投資標的,也請別來!」給這建議的,是近年上島、適時搭上「國際旅遊島」列車、抓準風向的新一代年輕台商。

即便失去土地,台商仍在海南立足!然而,未來能否扣緊、跟上海南發展腳步的節奏與方向,台商挹注資金之前,都得思量再三。

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EN

Going with the Flow: Taiwanese Businesses Adapting to New Hainan Environment

Sam Ju /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Scott Williams

Agriculture aside, what aspects of the “Taiwan experience” are Taiwanese businesspeople bringing to ­Hai­nan Island?

Will the mainland Chinese government’s efforts to turn Hai­nan into an international tourist destination force Taiwanese businesspeople out of the market? Will it open up new opportunities? What should Taiwanese do to keep their businesses viable?


Hainan Island used to be a place where banished ministers went into exile, a place far removed from the rest of the world. But when Deng Xiao­ping, the principle architect of mainland China’s liberalization, stated, “If we succeed in developing Hai­nan, we’ll have done something amazing,” he also laid the foundations for Hai­nan’s subsequent development.

China made Hainan Island its first, and to date only, provincial-level special economic zone in 1988. To Taiwanese ­looking to invest in China, the designation appeared to create new ­opportunities.

Over the last 20 years and more, Taiwanese businesspeople have striven to establish themselves on the island. Whether working in agriculture or some other arena, the challenges have proved daunting.

First come, first bankrupt?

Taiwanese businesspeople had their very own “first” on Hai­nan, building what was Hai­nan’s first (and just China’s third) golf course.

Construction on the Hai­nan Tai Dah Golf Club began in 1989 and was completed in 1992. The course, located just four kilometers from the Mei­lan International Airport, contributed enormously to the formation of a Hai­nan golf holiday business where none had existed before.

In an interview with mainland media, Tai Dah’s founder and former chairman Chen Qing­quan explained that he had two major reasons for building a golf course on Hai­nan: the island’s tropical climate and its pro-investment policies.

These factors attracted other Taiwanese businesses, leading to the establishment of the Dong­shan and IBL Golf Clubs, the other two members of Hai­nan’s 1990s golf-course triumvirate, in 1997.

But the good times were shortlived. Tai Dah was sold to mainland China’s ­CITIC Group in 2009, while IBL, which now sees fewer than 10 golfers per day, is reportedly looking for a buyer.

Dong­shan Golf Club, the only one of the three still operating normally, has in recent years become a part of Forward Golf Tour Schedule, a group that arranges golf-related timeshares. The course has become dependent on the income generated by groups of Korean golfers who come in on chartered jets in the winter. The course’s operator also uses income from real-estate investments on the mainland to help keep the course running.

Xie Jin­wang, the chair of the Dong­shanhu Golf Tourism Development Corporation and former chair of the Taiwan Businessmen Association, Hai­nan, says that his company’s investment (including land costs) in Dong­shan’s 120-hectare facility totals about RMB100 million. The club employs around 300 people, and its operating costs amount to some RMB12 million per year.

“If the club had to depend entirely on golf revenues, it would have long since gone bankrupt,” says Xie.

Incentives

Some 20 years ago, Taiwanese firms built the greens and fairways that kickstarted the Hai­nan golf industry. Now, one of those courses has been sold, another has closed, and the last is struggling to stay afloat. What has been the determining factor?

“We were far too optimistic in those days,” says Xie without hesitation. “We all rushed to take advantage of the ‘special economic zone,’ certain that the golf course market would turn out great. We never gave many issues any thought at all.”

What issues did Xie and the other Taiwanese investors ignore?

First, that the number of golfers in China had been dramatically overestimated.

Next, that cities on the mainland were building courses like mad, creating excess supply.

Prior to the mid-1980s, golf was still considered a pastime of the capitalist class and frowned upon by the Communist Party. It wasn’t until 1984 that the mainland built its first course in Guang­dong Province. When golf courses began popping up all over the mainland in the 1990s, the Hai­nan courses, which were already having a tough time and were hoping that more mainland golfers would begin visiting Hai­nan, faced an existential threat.

“Hai­nan wasn’t the only winter golfing option for players from Northern China.” Xie explains that once prices for domestic flights to Hai­nan rose, Hai­nan’s courses became uncompetitive with those in Thailand, which already had a well developed international tourism industry.

Given the new interest in developing Hai­nan into an international tourist destination, do golf-course investments retain some allure for Taiwanese investors? Xie shakes his head and says that there’s no way to lease that much land now. Besides, the Chinese golfing population just isn’t that large. Right now, only the more prosperous urban areas—Guang­dong, Shang­hai, Bei­jing—have all the elements necessary to support a golfing population.

Salad days

The year 2000 marked a watershed for Taiwanese investment in Hai­nan. Prior to that, Taiwanese businesspeople in Hai­nan were either in agriculture or, to a lesser extent, real-estate development, both of which are strongly land-oriented. But when the government began repossessing leased property and the real-­estate bubble began to form, the investment environment became more constrained. Taiwanese were compelled to either seek out other fields or return to Taiwan.

The first generation of Taiwanese investors in Hai­nan generally came to the island because they thought the outlook was bright for the special economic zone, and were generally in their forties when they arrived. The availability of large tracts of land at low cost made their early years here something of a golden age. But in more recent years, they’ve also seen land seizures and faced the prospect of having no land to use.

The younger generation of Taiwanese businesspeople on Hai­nan are somewhat different than their elders. They were generally­ in their 20s and 30s when they arrived—some were even just out of university—and largely missed the salad days. Their Hai­nan is no longer taking its first steps into economic liberalization, but rather striving to become a tourist mecca.

These mostly “post-1980” Taiwanese are enthusiastically embracing the innovation-intensive, marketing-driven, personal-network-dependent service sector. From their perspective, land-intensive agricultural businesses and capital-intensive real-estate investments are obsolete.

You certainly get that sense while sitting in the ­Sanya Bay shop of Taiwanese businessman Marco.

Catering to tourists

Zhang Hao­gang, who goes by “Marco,” came to Hainan in 2007. One of his uncles, Lu Wen­bin, is the founder and president of Shang­hai Zao­miao Food Co. Another, Lu ­Wenyu, is the chairman of the BinGo-C chain of frozen dessert shops.

Marco, who was born in 1976, runs two “casual” restaurants in Sanya and oversees a fruit processing facility that BinGo-C opened in Chang­jiang in July 2012.

Marco’s Zao­miao Café is located on the roof of a building near the busy part of ­Sanya’s Jie­fang Road. The café’s a great spot for taking in nighttime views of ­Sanya Bay, and his clientele is young. Marco calls it his “lite bar” because even though it’s nominally a café, its most popular items are beverages containing a splash of alcohol.

His other restaurant is a BinGo-C shop located in the Nan­shan Cultural Tourism Zone. Opened at mid-year, it sells ice cream and shaved-ice desserts made with flash-frozen mangos and strawberries.

The prices at the Nan­shan BinGo-C are about the same as those in Tai­pei. Marco says that product pricing was a consideration when he decided to locate the shop in a tourist hotspot. He reasoned that tourists from northern China have a great deal more money to spend than Hai­nan residents. If he’d opened the shop downtown, he wouldn’t have had any business.

The lease on the 660-square-meter shop costs him RMB2.5 million per year (about NT$12.5 million). By way of comparison, Marco says that the same rent would get you only “a tiny shop in a remote corner” of downtown Sanya, and notes that the high cost of doing business is more than most small investors can afford.

Zeng Yan­wei exemplifies another type of Hai­nan latecomer. Rather than run his own business Zeng, a manager with Sanya Mu’er­duo Restaurant Consulting, works for another Taiwanese businessperson.

Mu’er­duo likewise operates a frozen desserts restaurant, Coconut Ice, located in ­Sanya’s über-fashionable Ya­long Bay district. The 30-year-old Zeng, who worked for years in Taiwan as a chef preparing Western-style desserts, came to Hai­nan in 2006 at the invitation of a former boss and now plans to spend the rest of his life here.

Hai­nan grows a tremendous variety of fruit. Mu’er­duo has taken advantage of this by going into fruit processing, producing fruit ice creams and sorbets that it sells at its own store and at five-star hotels. In fact, Zeng says, the two channels each account for approximately half of the company’s revenues.

Zeng adds that before he came to Hai­nan he assumed that the island’s hot climate would make frozen treats a staple with locals. When he arrived, he discovered that it was actually the wintertime tourists from northern China who were more fond of icy desserts. Mu’er­duo’s business strategy is therefore much like BinGo-C’s: it targets tourists from the mainland with money to burn.

Tourists visiting Hai­nan are already making a significant contribution to the island’s economy. According to the China Institute for Reform and Development (CIRD), Hai­nan had tourism revenues of nearly RMB29 billion in 2010. CIRD forecasts that these will rise to as much as RMB200 billion by 2020.

Sanya attracts more tourists than any other city on the island. A member of the ground crew at ­Sanya Phoenix International Airport says that there were roughly 10 million visitors last year, about 90% of whom came from the mainland.

Long live leisure!

Since Communist Party of China general secretary Hu Jin­tao’s 2008 directive that “Hai­nan must develop a modern service sector with tourism at the forefront,” all of Hai­nan, and Sanya in particular, has applied itself to the realization of this goal. Consequently, the bulk of the investment injected into the island has been directed into tourism-related assets.

Alex Tsai, the Sanya-region manager for Hai­nan Versailles Catering & Entertainment Management Co., is the son of Tsai Pao-­liang, president of the Taiwan Businessmen Association, ­Sanya. Just 29 years old, the younger Tsai now runs his family’s ­Sanya restaurants and KTV businesses.

He recommends that future Taiwanese investors in Hai­nan focus on projects that are big, unique (such as a theme park, which Sanya currently lacks), accessible (such as inexpensive KTVs), or “high-class” (such as five-star hotels), projects oriented around recreation and tourism, and that have their own niche. He argues that profitable businesses don’t necessarily earn their money from the mass of consumers. More often, they earn it by targeting specific groups of consumers.

Anita Huang, deputy general manager of the Taiwanese owned and operated Le Parker, a five-star hotel located in ­Sanya, says that even more than financial capital, Hai­nan lacks “human capital.” She explains that Hai­nan’s service-industry workers lack the attention to detail of their Taiwanese counterparts.

The degree to which ordinary employees just “don’t care” drives Huang batty. She says that she’s constantly reminding employees to use standard polite expressions such as “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” but “no matter how many times you tell them, they always forget.”

“The quality of service reflects the educational and cultural background,” says Huang. She recommends that new graduates of Taiwanese hospitality programs consider working on Hai­nan for a time. If they can get past the starting salaries of just RMB1,400 a month (roughly NT$7,000), the experience of working in what has become China’s hottest winter tourism destination will broaden their perspectives and enrich their résumés.

Though present-day Hai­nan still contains elements of its past, it is clearly no longer the special economic zone of 1988.

Having experienced the joy of cheap land, hemorrhaged profits during the bubble years, and agonized over the seizure of agricultural land, the first generation of Taiwanese investors warns the ambitious younger generation of investors: “Unless you have deep pockets, stay home.”

The younger generation, which has jumped on the “international tourism” bandwagon, offers advice of its own: “Unless you’re going to invest in the right areas, stay home!”

In spite of having lost much of their land, Taiwanese businesspeople have maintained a foothold on Hai­nan. But can they get in step with Hai­nan’s march towards development? Nowadays, they need to give the question serious thought before plunking down their cash.

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