Visitors flood into Hong Kong as locals hope to flee chill

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2012, 1:55pm

Hong Kong has been infected with the travel bug this holiday season, with immigration staff expecting to handle 8.65 million journeys - most via the land crossings.

The estimate covers the periods from December 21 to 26 and December 30 to January 2, and, if met, will mark an 11 per cent rise from last year.

Most travellers - an estimated 75 per cent - will travel to and from the mainland, with the Lo Wu border control point the busiest.

The number of outbound travellers by land reached its peak yesterday, with about 384,000 people departing Hong Kong.

The number of inbound travellers is expected to be heaviest on December 26, at about 391,000.

The Civil Aviation Department said that between Friday and January 7 Hong Kong International Airport would handle 18,440 flights, 6 per cent more than in the same period last year. The airport will be busiest today, with 1,067 flights, 29 more than last year.

Those flying out will leave behind a chilly Hong Kong, with temperatures forecast to drop to 10 degrees Celsius tomorrow and 13 degrees on Christmas day in urban areas, and lower in the New Territories.

In all, the airport will handle an additional 250 flights. Taipei this year is again the destination with the highest number - 84 - of additional flights.

Traveller Kelvin Lei Chun-ran, a financier, said the main draw was the cheap air fare.

"When I am sick of Hong Kong, I jump at any opportunity to go on vacation," said Lei, who was on his way to catch a HK$2,500 round-trip flight to Taiwan on China Airlines.

The travel bug was apparent on the Airport Express train heading into the city. Pearline Vijayakumar, 19, and six relatives travelled from Singapore to spend the holidays in Hong Kong. As the train pulled out of the airport, some of them stood up excitedly to snap pictures of the Lantau peaks behind Tung Chung. "We don't have mountains in Singapore," she said.