The number of mainland visitors coming to Hong Kong during the National Day "golden week" is expected to fall by as much as 30 per cent following the adoption of a new mainland law against forced shopping.
The law, approved in April, bans unreasonably cheap tours where prices cannot cover costs such as airline tickets and accommodation. It will come into effect next month, coinciding with the peak holiday period for mainlanders from October 1 to 7.
The law is aimed at combatting infamous "forced shopping" trips, where agencies offer cheap tours with costs offset by commissions received from shops.
Under the new law, tour firms are not allowed to bring groups to designated shops "unless prior consensus has been reached" with the group members.
The law would double the price of tours to Hong Kong and discourage people from joining group tours, Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said on radio yesterday. He estimated that the number of group tour visitors would drop by 30 per cent during the holiday, reducing total arrivals of mainland visitors by up to one fifth.
His prediction contrasts with the trend of big increases in mainland arrivals during the past few years. A total of 960,000 mainland tourists visited the city during "golden week" last year, up 24 per cent from two years ago. Of those, 303,000 were group visitors, an increase of 35 per cent year on year.
Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners executive director Michael Li Hon-shing expected hotel occupancy to fall below 87 per cent during the holiday. One Tsuen Wan hotel had cut its nightly room rate from HK$800 to little more than HK$700, he said.
Tour agencies have also increased prices back to levels that cover their costs.
"A five-day trip from Beijing or Shanghai [to Hong Kong] will cost HK$6,000, up from HK$2,000 last year," Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said.
There are 1,700 tour agencies in Hong Kong. About 160 receive inbound tourists from the mainland and 110 deal specifically in shopping tours. More than 2,000 tour guides made a living from commissions, Tung said.