'Three links' move would cost the city HK$3b

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong will lose more than HK$3 billion a year in travel-related revenue when the 'three links' are established between the mainland and Taiwan, city tourism operators warn.

The links - direct transport, trade and postal ties - are planned by the Kuomintang, which has a new majority in the island's legislature.

Figures from Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council showed that an annual average of 3.68 million travellers from the island had passed through Hong Kong en route to the mainland in the past five years.

'Travel agencies and Hong Kong authorities have to prepare for the worst because direct cross-strait flights will definitely be pushed through soon,' said Kai Chuen-kam, chairman of the Hong Kong Taiwan Tourist Operators' Association.

'Taiwanese travellers, except those investing or working in the Pearl River Delta, will choose to fly to the mainland directly after that, as it will save at least one-third of the cost and halve their travel time,' Mr Kai said.

On the other hand, he said Hong Kong might benefit from the island's opening up for mainland travellers.

'This is because the cross-strait direct flights will just concentrate on some key cities where Taiwanese businessmen live,' he said. 'As mainlanders are keen on visiting Taiwan, they would also mark Hong Kong as one of their travel points.'

Timothy Wong Ka-ying of Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies said the 'three links' would not have an excessively negative impact on Hong Kong's economic growth.

'It would cause Hong Kong to lose less than 1 percentage point of GDP growth compared with the effect of Taiwanese companies' pullout before 1997,' said Dr Wong. 'The effect now will be much diluted.'