Shortfall in mainland arrivals blamed on cold snap
Chilly weather and expensive hotel rooms kept down the number of mainlanders visiting Hong Kong over the Lunar New Year, the Tourism Board chief said yesterday.
James Tien Pei-chun said the total of 706,748 mainland visitors to the city from January 22 to 28 was only a 6.6 per cent increase from last year, while a rise of at least 10 per cent had been expected.
'Preliminary analysis shows that this was due to the weather: the second, third and fourth day of the Lunar New Year were especially cold,' Tien said in a radio interview yesterday.
Mainland visitors made up 78 per cent of the total. The number arriving as individuals increased 4.7 per cent while those travelling with tours grew by 17 per cent compared with the same time last year, he said.
Tien blamed the rising price of hotel accommodation, due to a shortage of rooms, as another reason for the shortfall.
He disagreed with recent remarks by Michael Li Hon-sing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, that room occupancy was not at saturation level.
Tien said Li's figures were wrong, and that hotel room occupancy during this year's Lunar New Year was more than 90 per cent and the city needed more hotels.
Hong Kong had about 62,000 hotel rooms, and in a year there would be about 10,000 more, he said. But that would still leave a shortage, since the number of visitors next year was expected to grow by two million.
With a few recent events pointing to growing tension between mainlanders and Hongkongers, such as an incident involving eating on the MTR, Tien said mainlanders should follow Hong Kong's customs while in the city and Hongkongers should be more understanding towards cultural differences.
Joseph Tung Yao-chung, Hong Kong Travel Industry Council executive director, said incidents such as the alleged ban by fashion house Dolce & Gabbana on Hongkongers taking photographs outside its Canton Road store, and Peking University Professor Kong Qingdong branding Hongkongers 'dogs', would not deter mainlanders from visiting the city.
'I believe most people are rational and will not take this into consideration,' Tung said. 'Most Hong Kong people are friendly.' He agreed with Tien about the cold weather acting as a deterrent to visitors, saying most came from the nearby Pearl River Delta region and could choose to come at another time.
However, tourism sector lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said he expected the conflicts to have a negative effect on Hong Kong's tourism industry, although it might not be immediate and reflected in recent statistics.
'People go on holiday for fun and do not want to take the risk of receiving supercilious treatment or being scolded,' he said.
Referring to recent technical faults at the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, Tien said the operator should improve its attitude towards tourists. It was just lucky that the incidents did not get extensive coverage by mainland media, he said.
Mainland visitors to Hong Kong last year
- It was a 16.5 per cent increase