Fewer shoppers among flood of mainlanders visiting Hong Kong for 'golden week' holiday

Retailers say sales have slumped, despite surge in number of holiday visitors from across the border as 'forced shopping' law begins to bite

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 11:36am

The number of mainland visitors coming to Hong Kong on the first day of the "golden week" National Day holiday is up 60 per cent from last year.

Figures from the Immigration Department show that 159,681 mainlanders visited the city on Tuesday, the first day of the holiday, which runs until next Monday.

Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said that although a new mainland law that seeks to combat "forced shopping" had led to a slight drop in tour groups visiting the city, many more mainlanders were coming through the individual travellers' scheme.

But many retailers said they had had fewer customers compared to last year, possibly because tour groups were spending more time seeing the sights instead of shopping because of the new law.

The law was approved in April and took effect on Tuesday. It bans travel agencies from bringing tour groups to designated shops "unless prior consensus has been reached" with group members.

Travel agencies charge mainlanders who join "forced shopping" groups very low tour fees as they make their money from commissions paid by the stores.

"We received many complaints [about forced shopping] in the past," said Wu.

"We always said we wanted to do something to improve people's impression of tourism in Hong Kong. The law is now helping us do so."

The council initially said 250 mainland tour groups - down 30 per cent from last year - came to the city on Tuesday. But revised figures show the number was 315, down a more modest 12.5 per cent.

Ben Yeung Po-sing, of luxury watch retailer Unique Timepieces in Causeway Bay, said business on Tuesday was half what it was last year.

"It started to get better today, but there were not as many customers as last year," he said. "Many tourists are spending time sightseeing."

Charlie Leung Wai-kee, manager of Kam Kau Jewellery & Goldsmith's Hennessy Road branch in Wan Chai, said business was down 20 to 30 per cent.

The popular shopping district of Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui remained quieter than last year on the second day of the "golden week", according to drinks vendor Wong Yiu-wah, now in his fifth year doing business there.

While big brands might be suffering from a loss of business, big spenders were nevertheless in a bullish mood.

"I don't have a limit on my budget," said a Shenzhen businessman surnamed Peng, who was carrying six big high-end shopping bags of goods worth HK$50,000 as he queued in front of the seventh store he had visited in an afternoon.

There were queues at most of the well-known shops in Canton Road yesterday but they occasionally melted away, suggesting a lower rate of patronage than in the past years, when there were long lines of shoppers throughout the afternoon.

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