Arrivals indicate scam fallout over, says tourism chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland arrivals in the first five days of this month reached about 160,000, only a 3.2 per cent increase year on year despite the festivities surrounding the handover's 10th anniversary.

The total number of visitors during the period increased by 6 per cent to roughly 330,000, Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said.

Last year, July arrivals totalled 2,185,610, of whom 1,196,987 were from the mainland.

Mr Tien said he believed the results reflect a normalisation in tourism growth following intense negative publicity in April about shopping scams targeting mainland tour groups. The number of visitors in May increased 12.6 per cent year on year, dispelling fears travellers are losing interest in the city.

'I feel the months of June and July are back to normal,' Mr Tien said.

The board will release visitor data for June later.

He said the board was concerned about the suspension of the cable car service at the Ngong Ping 360 attraction on Lantau but is confident tourists will continue to visit Hong Kong. The service was suspended indefinitely after a cable car cabin crashed to the ground during tests on June 11. Investigations by the government and operator into the incident are continuing and are expected to be ready in two months.

Hong Kong Disneyland also does not expect business to suffer, managing director Bill Ernest said. The theme park kicks off its three-month summer session on Saturday. Among the new seasonal attractions will be a daily Mickey's WaterWorks parade, an Animation Academy and a Stitch dance party. Summer is the peak period for visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland.

The theme park has already sold more than 70,000 annual passes since launching them nine months ago. Mr Ernest said most passes sold so far are value passes, which cost between HK$370 and HK$650 and are not permitted to be used during certain peak periods and holidays.

In addition, more than 40,000 annual passes have been distributed to children born in 1997 as part of the celebrations for the handover's 10th anniversary.

Mr Ernest also said work was continuing to introduce a CityPass, a discount ticket that allows people to visit the theme park and other attractions in Hong Kong, including Madame Tussauds wax museum on The Peak, and to go on a harbour cruise.

A spokesman for CityPass said earlier that the discount ticket would likely be ready later in the summer.

Rising figures

The approximate number of mainland arrivals in the year's first five months 6.1m