CY Leung policy address 2014

Critics hit back at Leung's plan to attract more visitors

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 7:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 7:34am

Hong Kong is still capable of receiving more tourists, the government concluded after a study on the city’s tourism capacity.

There will be no cap on tourism numbers, but the Individual Visit Scheme allowing independent travel by residents of 49 mainland cities will not be expanded in at least two years due to public concerns, a government source said.

The scope of another permit scheme allowing Shenzhen permanent residents multiple entries to Hong Kong will also remain unchanged.

In 2012, a plan to allow Shenzhen’s 4.1 million non-permanent residents to apply for multiple-entry permits to Hong Kong was put on hold after a public outcry against crowdedness and problems arisen from cross-border parallel trading. That was when the government commenced a study to see if Hong Kong’s attractions, border control facilities and transportation are able to handle more tourists.

The study was completed at the end of last year, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in the policy address yesterday.

“We must expand our receiving capacity, focusing on high-spending visitors, to achieve the greatest economic benefits with limited resources. We must also take appropriate and effective steps to ensure that the daily lives of our people will not be affected,” he said.

The chief executive envisioned developing a tourism and entertainment hub in Kai Tak, and building more hotels and tourism facilities on Lantau Island.

Elaborating on his comments, a government source said the study found the city had yet to reach its maximum tourism capacity. The source admitted that accommodation supply was tight but pledged that the government would be cautious in building more hotels.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong of Population Policy Concern Group said freezing the scope of the Independent Visit Scheme – which has remained unchanged since 2007 – would do little to ease overcrowding.

“The government’s conclusion that HK can still receive more tourists is very different from what citizens see during daily commutation,” he said.

He demanded abolishing the multiple-entry permit scheme and limiting Shenzhen residents to one trip to Hong Kong a month.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching found a temporary freeze acceptable.

”Still, the government should continue to monitor the situation, especially how crowded the major attractions are, for future reviews, she said.

Travel Industry Council executive-director Joseph Tung Yao-chung putting a cap on tourist numbers.

“The most important thing is to ensure mainland tour groups have booked hotels for members before arriving in the city,” he said.