'Don't cap visitors, build more shops', retailers urge
Hong Kong Retail Management Association urges the government to ignore calls to restrict the numbers of mainland shoppers
Retailers have told the government to build more shops rather than restrain the number of mainland visitors, who are continuing to fuel growth in the city's retail sector.
The comment came as mainland shoppers boosted retail sales 10.5 per cent year on year to HK$47.7 billion in January, despite the Lunar New Year, a traditional shopping season which fell in January last year, providing a high base for comparison.
The Hong Kong Retail Management Association said the growth last month should be even better, with the Lunar New Year falling during the month.
But calls to restrain further development of the 10-year-old individual travellers scheme, which allowed mainland visitors from some provinces multiple entries into the city, or even cap the number of mainland tourists, have grown stronger recently as ever-increasing visitor numbers weighed on Hong Kong's traffic, space and resources.
Caroline Mak Sui-king, the chairman of the association, said it would be irrational to cap the number of inbound visitors.
"No businessman would think he already had too many customers. It would be more constructive to think about building more retail points to divert the traffic rather than capping it," Mak said.
While more commercial floor space in areas such as Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui has been taken up by retailers, Mak said few shopping centres or new shopping districts were added in the past years.
"Tung Chung, for example, can be turned into a much better tourist and shopping attraction with the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge coming," Mak said.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said last month Hong Kong should not blindly aim for an increase in the number of visitors, while the chief of the Tourism Board, James Tien, said no more mainland cities should be added to the individual visit scheme until Hong Kong had the infrastructure to cope.
Sales of smart phones and high-technology products jumped the most in January, with growth nearly doubling year on year. A revision of the government's green car tax incentive scheme, which will squeeze many European models out of the tax waiver list next month, saw car sales rise 51.4 per cent in January to HK$9.36 billion.