Main­lan­ders by­pass HK for hol­i­day

Hong Kong re­tail mar­kets and restau­rants hit hard as trav­el­ers look to other des­ti­na­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By WANG YUKE in Hong Kong and SU ZHOU in Bei­jing

Hong Kong is los­ing its luster for the in­creas­ingly af­flu­ent, so­phis­ti­cated main­land tourists dur­ing the Na­tional Day hol­i­day.

“The pas­sion of main­land trav­el­ers (for Hong Kong) has damp­ened dra­mat­i­cally this year,” said Sarah Le­ung, di­rec­tor of the Hong Kong Tourism In­dus­try Em­ploy­ees Gen­eral Union.

She said the num­ber of tour groups from the main­land dur­ing Golden Week will drop an es­ti­mated 10 per­cent com­pared with the same pe­riod last year.

The sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing ho­tel book­ings is grim, with the num­ber of reser­va­tions slump­ing no­tably, Le­ung added.

“Hong Kong’s re­tail mar­ket and restau­rants have taken a hard blow since the start of this year. The rev­enue through­out the year is pro­jected to fall 20 to 30 per­cent com­pared with last year,” Le­ung said. “We pre­dict that the two in­dus­tries will con­tinue go­ing down­hill dur­ing the Golden Week due to the re­duced num­ber of main­land trav­el­ers.”

China Youth Travel Ser­vice in Bei­jing con­firmed the same trend. The num­ber of planned trips to Hong Kong dropped 15 per­cent dur­ing Golden Week com­pared with the same pe­riod last year. The to­tal num­ber of vis­its from the main­land to Hong Kong from Jan­uary to Septem­ber dropped 17 per­cent.

For years, Hong Kong was the first choice for out­bound Chi­nese main­land tourists. Now it’s los­ing visi­tors to com­peti­tors such as Ma­cao, South Korea, Ja­pan, Thai­land and Europe.

A 2013 re­port from Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group said Chi­nese main­land tourists are set to aban­don Hong Kong for the wider world within a decade.

“Main­land peo­ple, es­pe­cially lux­ury-goods con­sumers, have no in­ten­tion to travel to Hong Kong. They’ve switched to Euro­pean coun­tries,” said Le­ung, who went to Bei­jing re­cently to look into the po­ten­tial tourism mar­ket. “It is Hong Kong peo­ple’s hos­til­ity to­ward main­land tourists that has led main­lan­ders to lost in­ter­est and trust in Hong Kong.”

Xu Xiaolei, spokesman for China Youth Travel Ser­vice, said Chi­nese main­land tourists’ first choices are be­com­ing more diver­si­fied as over­seas des­ti­na­tions are im­prov­ing their ser­vices to at­tract af­flu­ent Chi­nese.

“In the past, many clients would con­sider the lan­guage and cul­ture bar­ri­ers, dis­tance, ex­pense and con­ve­nience of get­ting a visa when plan­ning their first over­seas trip. So Hong Kong jumped out as the per­fect choice,” Xu said.

“I wouldn’t say Hong Kong is not at­trac­tive at all. I am say­ing that the travel ex­pe­ri­ences in other over­seas des­ti­na­tions are as friendly as, or even friend­lier than, Hong Kong’s.”

Si­mon Lee, se­nior lec­turer at the School of Ac­coun­tancy of the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong Busi­ness School, said Hong Kong lacks the kind of sur­prises that tourists ex­pect.

“It only has the Ngong Ping 360 ca­ble car and Hong Kong Dis­ney­land, con­structed 10 years ago, com­pared with the huge tourist in­fra­struc­ture in Sin­ga­pore and Ma­cao,” said Lee.

“Hong Kong is only an agent in re­tail sales, and the prod­ucts are not pro­duced here. Due to the high rent, no mat­ter whether the prod­ucts are lux­u­ri­ous or in­ex­pen­sive, prices are 10 to 20 per­cent lower in Thai­land, Ja­pan and Tai­wan. Even Hong Kong peo­ple think that it is not a good value for the money.”

Hong Kong needs more re­sort ho­tels, a new theme park, more mega-events and bet­ter pro­tec­tion of its her­itage, Lee added.

Tian Jie, a se­nior lec­turer at the School of Ho­tel and Tourism Man­age­ment at the City Univer­sity of Hong Kong, said that Hong Kong needs to look at po­ten­tial tourists from sec­on­dand third-tier main­land cities.

“Now that Hong Kong has lost its ap­peal among peo­ple from coastal cities and big cities such as Bei­jing and Shang­hai, why not tap into the mar­ket in less-de­vel­oped cities?” she said.

Another al­ter­na­tive, Tian said, is for Hong Kong to draw on its trans­fer-point ad­van­tage.

“We can tar­get over­seas tourists who might be will­ing to stay one or two nights in Hong Kong be­fore they head for the main­land.”

Zhang Ji­a­jie, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of ge­og­ra­phy at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, said that Hong Kong has great po­ten­tial to de­velop it­self as a “spring­board” to other coun­tries at home and abroad.

“The trans­port con­nec­tiv­ity of Hong Kong is well-es­tab­lished. Many tourists need to trans­fer their flights in Hong Kong, which is an op­por­tu­nity to at­tract them to travel and stay overnight,” he said.

Con­tact the writer at suzhou@ chi­

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