City boosted by visitors' spending over rugby weekend
It isn't just rugby fans who have reason to cheer the Sevens: the annual sporting extravaganza is also a boon to the hospitality and tourism industries at a time of the year that is otherwise normally quiet.
With thousands of free-spending rugby fans crowding bars and restaurants, the throng of visitors has been bolstered by those in town for yesterday's chief executive election.
At a restaurant in Mid-levels, near the University of Hong Kong, the locals and tourists enjoying Sunday lunch were split, with Hongkongers glued to coverage of the election while the visitors watched live rugby matches on the television.
'To be honest, I didn't know what the Sevens was until they [visitors] told me ... To me, today just means a good business day, even better than usual,' the restaurant owner said.
According to a recently released report from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, last year's Sevens brought in 21,391 overseas visitors, who spent an average of six days in the city.
On average, a Hong Kong Sevens visitor spent HK$12,873 during his or her trip on accommodation, shopping, dining, transport and other costs, the Tourism Board said in the report.
Mainland travellers have bolstered the city's economy with their spending power, but March is traditionally a quiet time, after the Christmas and Lunar New Year holidays.
Compared with mainland visitors, who often spend two or three days in the city during their trips, local hotels, in particular five-star luxury hotels, can also make more money from foreign visitors in town for the Sevens.
'The Sevens creates a great opportunity to promote Hong Kong's image really as 'Asia's world city' [the government's slogan for the city],' said Stephen Copeman, executive vice-president of the International Relations Council at HKU.
'In fact, the event doesn't just attract foreigners but also becomes a great opportunity to help expats in Hong Kong to get engaged, and people are willing to spend when they feel happy,' added the Australian national, who considers Hong Kong his second home.
Some of his Australian friends didn't get tickets to go to the stadium to watch the matches, so instead decided to gather at local bars to watch the live TV broadcast of the event, said Copeman.
This year, Cathay Pacific and HSBC were the two main sponsors of the event.
Both give out tickets to clients, mainly those in the financial and business communities.
The Tourism Board found from its research that foreign visitors to the Sevens are typically wealthy professionals with an average income of US$125,400 per year.
But IRC's Copeman believes the event is also rapidly becoming more popular among young international students at HKU and other institutions in the city.
The amount, in Hong Kong dollars, tourists spent in Hong Kong during the Sevens in 2011