Tourism arrival figures are accurate
Your front-page report headlined 'Tourism figures inflated by double counting' (South China Morning Post, November 18) gave the impression that the Hong Kong Tourism Board deliberately tries to inflate tourism arrival figures and attempts to hide the accurate picture from the tourism industry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
All our tourism arrival statistics are based on actual figures supplied by the Immigration Department and are compiled strictly in accordance with the international standards set out by the World Tourism Organisation which defines 'international visitors' as comprising 'overnight visitors' and 'same-day visitors'. It is irresponsible to suggest, as your accompanying editorial did, that we should deviate from this international practice, which ensures that fair and accurate comparisons can be made with other destinations.
It is a known and accepted fact in the Hong Kong tourism industry that around 35 per cent of our total visitors leave on the same day they arrive, which is attributable to Hong Kong's international hub position. For instance there is an especially large number of Taiwan business visitors who continue by land or sea to other parts of the Pearl River Delta. We have never tried to hide this and we show detailed, market-by-market breakdowns between 'overnight' and 'same-day' visitors in all our monthly releases of statistics, to help the local industry understand and take account of this phenomenon.
Our arrival statistics do not include those visitors who are purely in transit at the airport and have not passed through immigration control. This approach again is in line with World Tourism Organisation standards. Nevertheless, the Tourism Board is very proactive in trying to persuade both transit passengers and 'same-day' visitors to stay longer in the SAR. We have helped airlines and hotels put together a number of special packages that offer transit or 'same-day' visitors free overnight stays in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, targeting those transit passengers with two hours or more transit time, we have been working with commercial tour operators and retailers to provide short tours and shopping excursions, offering these passengers sightseeing and spending opportunities.
Hong Kong Tourism Board