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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 2:09pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Don't bite the hand of tourism - shake it

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 1:38am

The mainland's mammoth Lunar New Year scramble is as much about going home for the festive season as having the opportunity to travel. A proportion of the 3.4 billion journeys that will be made during the 40-day period will be to Hong Kong. Some people will see the extra deluge of tourists as a heightened inconvenience and intrusion, a cause for frowns, scowls and perhaps anger. Given the benefits of tourism to our city, though, we should instead be smiling and offering a friendly hand of welcome.

Those benefits may not come readily to mind as we negotiate crowded shopping streets and jostle for space on public transport in the weeks on either side of Hong Kong's official four-day break. Shelves empty of favourite products and reports of baby milk powder shortages and parallel traders cause annoyance. The closure of yet another long-standing restaurant, the victim of rent rises in districts being transformed by luxury goods stores, prompts fears that culture and heritage are being lost. Those with a chauvinistic attitude speak of the cross-border visitors in terms of hygiene and politeness.

Being protective of what we have is natural given our history and place in the nation. But we have always lived among tourists as our city has been a draw or stopover point for visitors. Tourism has long been a pillar industry and it is immensely important to the economy. It is easy to forget about just how significant the sector is as we compete for footpath space with yet another suitcase-toting tour group.

Tourism is Hong Kong's only major industry with sustained growth. It is being driven by mainland visitors, who last year comprised 70 per cent of the 48 million arrivals. Tourists spent HK$305 billion in 2011 and the economic sector accounted for more than 17 per cent of GDP. About 6.2 per cent of the workforce - more than 218,000 people - owed their jobs to foreign travellers. The retail and hospitality sectors benefit most, but the ripple effects extend throughout our economy.

Hong Kong is a free port and that means people and goods have to be allowed to flow freely. We cannot shut the door on tourists or pick and choose from where they come. A mainland scheme to allow more solo visitors has been put on hold, but it should not be left this way indefinitely. There has to be planning and infrastructure but, ultimately, the market will resolve needs. In keeping with our realities, it is in our every interest that we be hospitable and helpful to each and every tourist.


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This article is now closed to comments

The benefits of tourism have been hugely exaggerated in the editorial. A real picture was given some time ago by Jake of this newspaper:
I love the comments from China that if it didn't support Hong Kong, we'd lose like 30% of our economy.
I think that'd be a great thing actually. Things are so expensive and a bowl of wonton noodles is now over $40.
If losing China's support means that our cost of living drops dramatically, I'm all for it.
Hong Kong ought to belong to its locals, and policies ought to reflect the majority of locals' desire. Presently, the majority opinion and desire is to reduce mainland visitors, even at the cost of less "poor quality" visitors. I am not in the retail or tourism business, so if all of these mainlanders does come here is a blessing, as far as I am concern. However, if the Government does intends on increasing this portion of visitors, against the majority's wishes, then at least they can plan it better. How about a super-mall near Lok Ma Chau station, over the transport hub. A ten storey mall , covering that piece of land, can surely cater for all them parallel traders who are actually doing something legal, albeit undesirable! Similarily, if Gov allows MTR to develope Lowu station, I am sure that an even bigger mall / commercial complex can be created over that area too.
Was this written by Xinhua?
You bet! I don't think the influx of tourists, especially Mainland Chinese tourists has anything remotely positive for the territory. Tourism only generates menial jobs and hotel revenues go to the hands of international hotel operators. This article is definitely translated from the Xinhua News Agency


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