More Hongkongers decide to stay put to celebrate new year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 January, 2009, 12:00am

Revellers are expected to flood the streets to celebrate the Lunar New Year next week, with more people choosing to stay in town for the holiday because of the economic downturn. Travel agents say business is down about 15 per cent.

Many people were expected to flock to flower fairs across the city, police said. About 350,000 were likely to visit the Victoria Park fair alone, with tomorrow night expected to be the busiest.

On Tuesday, 400,000 are expected to mass on both sides of the harbour for a 23-minute fireworks display. Harbour City shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui will open its rooftop car park at Ocean Terminal to allow 10,000 people to watch the show.

Crowd-control measures and special traffic arrangements would be in place, roads will be closed and public transport would be increased if needed, police said.

With the global financial crisis biting deeper into the city's economy, fewer people will fly overseas for holidays this year, according to research by Nielsen.

Of the 1,000 people interviewed by Nielsen last month, only 35 per cent said they planned to travel during the new year holiday, a drop of 16 percentage points from last year.

Fifty per cent of respondents said they would spend 'less' or 'much less' on travelling this year because of the economic downturn. Only 6 per cent said they would spend more this year.

The Hong Kong poll was part of Nielsen research on consumers' travel desires which also covered the mainland and Taiwan.

In the mainland poll, 53 per cent of the 3,000 respondents said they planned to travel during the holiday. Of the 1,000 Taiwanese respondents, 46 per cent planned to travel.

Grace Pan, head of travel and leisure research at the Nielsen Company in China, said: 'In order for the travel industry to weather the current financial climate, it is vital to monitor the changing trends in travellers' behaviour closely.'

Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, managing director of EGL Tours, said prices for package tours had dropped about 10 per cent compared with last year, but this had not attracted more customers.

The Travel Industry Council estimated that local agencies would face a 15 per cent drop in turnover during the holiday season.

According to the Civil Aviation Department, airlines applied to fly an extra 245 flights between January 20 and February 5, down from the 316 extra flights during the holiday period last year.

What's on

Tomorrow 9-14 degrees Celsius

Last day of the Lunar New Year fairs;

Wong Tai Sin and Sha Tin Che Kung Temples open overnight

Monday 12-14 degrees, light rain patches

10am Carnival at Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree in Tai Po opens

5.08pm - 6.08pm Solar eclipse - Tai O, Lamma Island and Tai Mo Shan best for unobstructed views

8pm - 9.30pm Lunar New Year Night Parade in East Tsim Sha Tsui

Tuesday 12-15 degrees, light rain patches

8pm Fireworks, Victoria Harbour

Wednesday 14-18 degrees, light rain patches

12.25pm Lunar New Year Race Day at Sha Tin Racecourse

Thursday 17-20 degrees

8.30pm Lunar New Year Cup Soccer Tournament Finals, HK Stadium