The number of visitors from the mainland hit a record high in January, pushing total arrivals to Hong Kong up 13 percent, the tourism board said Thursday.
Of the 1.75 million people visiting the territory in January, 1.12 million came from the mainland, 48.5 percent higher than a year ago.
The record high figure is the result of the Spring Festival and the relaxed travel restrictions. Around 32 percent of mainland tourists were from the 16 cities which have allowed their residents to visit Hong Kong individually.
Apart from mainland tourists, arrivals from other markets, mainly composed of business travelers, all fell.
The occupancy rate of all hotels fell 4 percentage points to 78 percent, while average rates edged up 0.8 percent to HK$737.
The January tourist figures cannot tell the trend for this year since the Chinese New Year holidays were in February last year, Clara Chong, executive director of the tourism board said. It would be more scientific to analyze the combined figures of the first two months.
Earlier the tourism board forecast arrivals would grow 31.8 percent from SARS-hit 2003 to a record 20.5 million visitors this year, assuming stable outbound market conditions.
The board will focus on developing high-yield and family travel markets in 2004, according to Chairman Selina Chow.
"High-yield tourists, comprising corporate travelers and international exhibitors, spend twice as much as other visitors on average, and they also stay in the territory for longer periods of time," Chow told reporters yesterday at a discussion forum.
These tourists generated about 5.2 billion in revenue for Hong Kong in 2002. Corporate travelers accounted for 30 percent of the total number of tourists visiting the territory annually, she noted.
To encourage more family travelers to visit the city, the tourism board will implement support measures such as travel incentives and packages, Chow said.
It will also concentrate more efforts on the development of historical and cultural sites in the territory, she said.
Chow revealed that a number of new attractions will be added to the territory's tourist spots this year, including a new wetlands park and a celebrity-themed boulevard, which will enhance Hong Kong's appeal to international tourists.
(China Daily HK Edition March 5, 2004)