Still a beautiful choice
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.
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.