HK Attracts More Mainland Tourists

The number of the Chinese mainland's visitors to Hong Kong is expected to hit a new high in 2001, consolidating the city's status as the premier destination for tourists from the mainland.

Latest statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) indicated that an exceptionally high growth of 33.4 percent year-on-year was recorded in the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in November 2001, with visitor arrivals of 406,225.

For the period of January to November, the number of visitor arrivals from the mainland reached 3,990,670, accounting for 32.1 percent of Hong Kong's total arrivals of 12,420,147.

Clara Chong, executive director of HKTB, said the growth in mainland visitors during the second half of 2001 had "exceeded all expectations."

"It is especially encouraging that these increases are being seen before most of the recently announced visa relaxation measures have came into effect," she said. "We can expect to see further strong growth early next year when they do."

Starting from January next year, the quota system for the Hong Kong Group Tour Scheme will be abolished and the number of mainland travel agencies organizing tours to Hong Kong will be increased from the current four to 67.

It is preliminarily estimated that the new measures will attract an extra 300,000 visitors from the mainland, bringing in 1.5 billion HK dollars (US$ 192.3 million) in additional tourism receipts.

The Chinese mainland, being Hong Kong's biggest source market, is of utmost importance to the short- and medium-term development of Hong's tourism business.

To tap the potential market, HKTB has been actively extending links with mainland travel trade, and mapped out plans for the long-term tourism development.

HKTB has respectively signed agreements with the southwestern province of Sichuan, northwestern province of Xinjiang and Capital Beijing to enhance information exchanges and personnel training.

In November, HKTB organized an exhibition in Kunming, Yunnan province in southwest China, to display its City of Life: Hong Kong is it! campaign to attract more mainland tourists to visit Hong Kong during Christmas and the Lunar New Year, usually peak seasons for mainland tourists.

To enhance Hong Kong's international stand as one of the world's most popular tourism destinations and to boost domestic tourism as well, HKTB launched its first community-wide tourism initiative, City of Life: Hong Kong is it! in April this year.

The project, which is to run until March 2003, includes a series of special events and festival attractions held in all the 18 districts in Hong Kong, in addition to major thematic and seasonal events throughout the two year period.

CLP Lights Up Hong Kong, the first major program of the City of Life: Hong Kong is it! tourism campaign, was launched before Christmas, attracting a large number of visitors from all over the world, including the Chinese mainland.

Other tourism promotions, such as "Best of the Best" Culinary Awards and "Tell Your Hong Kong Story" Competition, all received warm response from the community and tourists.

Mainland tourists, who spend about 5,000 HK dollars on average each, also contributed a great deal to Hong Kong's retail sectors.

Gold and diamond jewelry, which used to be expensive luxuries, become affordable commodities for many tourists from the mainland.

Major jewelry retailers said they registered a rise of 30 percent in its number of mainland customers in December alone.

On average, the mainland tourists spend a few hundreds to 5,000HK dollars (US$ 640), said a jewelry salesman surnamed Yip from Chow Sang Sang Jewelry.

As for the visa relaxation for mainland tourists, Hong Kong tourist sectors all welcomed the measures and are optimistic about the rising trend of the mainland tourists in upcoming years.

Sun Jiangang, director and general manager of China Travel Service (Hong Kong and Macao Tour) Management Hong Kong, said tour prices will fall and more tourists can afford their holidays in Hong Kong.

Sun said that China Travel Service, which offers five-day tour packages for 15,000 HK dollars (US$ 1,923), will have the room of 20 percent to 30 percent price cut, and less expensive tours in future should bolster up the number of tourists coming to Hong Kong.

Some travel agents predicted that when Hong Hong's Disneyland is completed in 2005, there will be even more mainland tourists there.

( Xinhua News Agency December 31, 2001)