Still a beau­ti­ful choice

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG - By SO­PHIE HE in Hong Kong so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The city’s tourism industry is fac­ing some se­ri­ous chal­lenges, ac­cord­ing to Pe­ter Lam Kin-ngok, chair­man of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

The Im­mi­gra­tion Depart­ment said that dur­ing the first six days of the Na­tional Day hol­i­day start­ing Oct 1, the city re­ceived more than 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors from the main­land, or 3.26 per­cent more than last year.

But six days into the Golden Week, Hong Kong recorded 2.45 mil­lion ar­rivals, 5.82 per­cent less than the same pe­riod in 2014. The busiest day was Oct 2, when 443,640 vis­i­tors passed bor­der check points. Among them, 202,703, or 45.69 per­cent, came from the main­land.

On the street level, this Golden Week was less lus­trous than pre­vi­ous ones.

Few main­land shop­pers were seen queu­ing up out­side the lux­ury stores along Can­ton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the city’s prime shop­ping hot spots.

That was be­cause this year Hong Kong re­ceived a lot of tran­sit pas­sen­gers and many other vis­i­tors were sin­gle-day re­turnees.

To add to the headache, vis­i­tor num­bers fell for three months in a row from June to Au­gust.

Ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the Tourism Board, to­tal vis­i­tor ar­rivals in June fell by 2.9 per­cent on-year, with main­land vis­i­tor ar­rivals drop­ping by 1.8 per­cent.

In July, to­tal vis­i­tor ar­rivals dropped by 8.4 per­cent, with main­land ar­rivals post­ing a 9.8 per­cent plunge. And in Au­gust, to­tal vis­i­tor ar­rivals and main­land vis­i­tor fig­ures dropped by 6.6 per­cent and 7.1 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Lam told China Daily that he be­lieves the visa ap­pli­ca­tion process for qual­ity main­land res­i­dents should be eased in or­der to boost in­bound vis­i­tor num­bers.

He men­tioned that in late Septem­ber, the Busi­ness and Pro­fes­sion­als Al­liance for Hong Kong held a meet­ing and sug­gested that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment as well as the SAR ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sider al­low­ing the 20 mil­lion main­land e-pass­port hold­ers to ap­ply on­line for visas un­der the In­di­vid­ual Visit Scheme.

But, in the long term, Lam is cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of the tourism industry.

“Dur­ing the past 10 years or so, the num­ber of vis­i­tors has been on the rise. This year was the first con­trac­tion we’ve seen in so many years, as there were many things, in­clud­ing the ‘Oc­cupy Cen­tral’. All had neg­a­tively af­fected the city.”

But he said the chal­lenges have mo­ti­vated the Tourism Board to try harder to pro­mote Hong Kong.

Since the be­gin­ning of this year of­fi­cials have been vis­it­ing many coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ja­pan, South Korea, Sin­ga­pore and the Philip­pines, to pro­mote the city as a tourism des­ti­na­tion and to let peo­ple know that aside from ex­cit­ing duty-free shop­ping op­tions, Hong Kong also has stun­ning beaches, beau­ti­ful coun­try parks and cy­cling tracks.

“We want peo­ple to know that Hong Kong is a con­ve­nient city, a fam­ily place, a nice city that wel­comes vis­i­tors. I be­lieve that things will be­come bet­ter with our per­sis­tent ef­forts,” said Lam.

PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY

Pe­ter Lam Kin-ngok, chair­man of the Hong Kong Tourism Board since 2013, be­lieves vis­i­tors must be made more aware of the city’s fam­ily-friendly en­vi­ron­ment and its scenic beauty, stun­ning beaches, beau­ti­ful coun­try parks and cy­cling tracks.

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