Number of visitors to Hong Kong rises 11pc to record hit 54m

Tourism Board says Hong Kong is still a top travel destination, with visits from mainland groups growing and more individual tourists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 4:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 11:27am

While discussions continue over how many tourists Hong Kong can handle, the Tourism Board said total visitor numbers this year could reach 54 million, up 11 per cent from last year.

And, according to statistics from the first nine months of this year, average spending per visitor is about HK$8,000.

The surge in mainland visitors continues, with an 18 per cent increase to 33.5 million in the first 10 months of the year. There was a 20.6 per cent rise in mainlanders coming for day trips to 19.3 million, while another 14.2 million stayed overnight. Tourist numbers have more than tripled over the past decade, from 15.5 million in 2003, when the Individual Visit Scheme allowing mainlanders to visit without joining groups was introduced to revive an economy hit by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

This year's growth shattered earlier pessimism that a new law, passed in October, halting forced shopping trips for mainland visitors could take a toll on Hong Kong. The law bans unreasonably cheap tours where prices cannot cover costs such as airline tickets and accommodation.

"From January to September, the number of tour visitors grew 23 per cent year on year. The increase halted in October, but numbers were almost unchanged when compared with last year," the board's executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said yesterday. However the city welcomed 10 per cent more individual visitors in October.

Lau did not see more stringent laws as a long-term threat, as tour organisers were adapting by shifting to sightseeing tours.

Visitors from elsewhere in Asia fell, particularly from Japan where figures slid by 20 per cent due to the depreciation of the yen. Numbers from Europe and North American also recorded a single-digit drop.

Taiwan proved more successful. The board's promotions in smaller cities there helped increase the number of visitors.

Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng expected the mainland market to continue to grow over the next three years. "The trend of outbound travel has just started on the mainland," he said. "All destinations across the world are seeing their numbers [of Chinese visitors] increasing."