• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 7:20am
NewsHong Kong

Annual tourists to Hong Kong could rise to 70 million in three years, commission says

City could see 30 per cent increase in visitors within three years, as residents worry about impact on public transport and shopping areas

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 January, 2014, 4:46pm

Hong Kong could receive 70 million tourists annually within three years and 100 million within a decade, mostly from the mainland, according to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung.

So claimed yesterday the city's services could cope with more visitors but admitted there could be problems, such as congestion on the MTR.

The forecast brought an angry response from critics who said officials had failed to take into account the impact of increased tourism on residents and should set limits. They also predicted more conflict between locals and mainland tourists.

Based on "rather conservative assumptions" of a steady rise in mainland visitors - who numbered 40.8 million last year - and a slight increase in overseas travellers, a government report forecast an increase to 70 million in 2017 from 54.3 million last year and to 100 million in 2023.

So said an assessment of control points, tourist attractions and public transport indicated the increase would not overwhelm capacity in 2017 but did not mention the effect in 2023.

As Hong Kong was an open port, "we cannot and should not set a limit to the number of visitors", he said, adding that tourism accounted for 4.5 per cent of the city's gross domestic product and provided 230,000 jobs.

"There will be an impact on citizens … they may not be able to get on the MTR and need to wait for the next train," he said.

Activist Roy Tam Ho-pong said this was already being felt.

"What the government says is a big contrast to how the citizens feel," Tam, of the Population Policy Concern Group, said. "I just waited for six MTR trains at Admiralty station before I could get on one."

He criticised the report for failing to include a survey of the local population's views.

"The streets are full of shops selling cosmetics, electronics, gold jewellery and pharmacies," he said. "Citizens are angry about the elimination of shops which cater to their needs."

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said a limit on tourist arrivals should be set. "Further increases will sharpen the antagonism between tourists and citizens," she said.

Tourism figures including Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung and tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing found the estimate reasonable. They said more hotels should be encouraged, especially in rural areas.

The government said it aimed to divert visitors to less conventional attractions and to Lantau. While its report said services could cope in 2017 there were warning signs. Three of the 14 immigration control points - the airport, Hung Hom and Shenzhen Bay - saw their highest number of passengers in the first half of last year, exceeding the designated handling capacity.

The average annual increase in passengers of 6.1 per cent in recent years was many times that of the increase in manpower for the Immigration Department and Customs, which was 0.1 per cent to 0.3 per cent. But the report does not comment on the capacity of shopping areas in the tourist areas of Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay. A Tourism Commission spokesman said it was difficult to assess capacity scientifically. Accommodation could lag behind the increase. Hotel rooms will increase from 70,000 last year to 84,000 in 2017.

In response to suggestions for a mall at the border to cater for mainland shoppers, the government will conduct a feasibility study on the development potential of the northern New Territories, including Lok Ma Chau.

As most of the sites there were privately owned, it would be more efficient for the private sector to drive development, the report suggests.



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

This is a nightmare scenario. The government has given up on promoting Hong Kong as a tourist destination and is instead content with a massive and regular influx of Mainlanders. Mainlanders permits to come to Hong KOng as tourists and Hong Kong is definitely within its rights and should limit the amount, but not tourists in general. Over-reliance on Mainland tourists has already made Hong Kong a worse place to live over a decade and now they tell us to get ready for a tidal wave? The government needs to stop tells "we are a free port" or "we can't do this or that" for one reason or another. Look at the problems being created and then solve the problem in whatever manner required. This is horrible news, but I suspect we are to get more as refugees over the next decade than tourists....stay tuned.
Insane and yet another example of how far out of touch govt ministers and their lackeys are. Maybe they should get out of their govt cars and ride the MTR some time. The system in the urban areas is well past capacity already.
Regarding tourist numbers, France received 83 million foreign visitors in 2012 (wikipedia). How is it possible for our little spec of real estate to cope with 70 or 100 million?
70 million visitors and climbing! All the local shops and little restaurants gone.
Suitcases on every tram, up and down all the MTR escalators and in the aisles of every car.
Government officials should ride public transport and experience the decline is the quality of street life in Hong Kong. The Government needs to follow the example of Bhutan and promote high value low volume tourism. Day trippers with suitcases full of milk powder and antibiotics do not enhance the economy or life style of Hong Kong.
I love you mainland visitors!!!!
Soon our streets will be paved with your p o o p.
Never mind a comparison to the whole of France, how about just comparing it to Paris, the world's top tourist destination? Paris is bigger and less dense than Hong Kong, and it has much more high-capacity infrastructure to handle tourists. It received 27 million tourists per year. Hong kong already doing nearly double that number is utter madness. (The reason HK is not considered the world's top tourist destination by the way is that the bulk of our visitors are 'domestic')
I wonder how many of these gov. secretaries have caught the MTR at peak hour for a week or so.It's a living hell.I would have thought the obvious thing to do was place some sort of cap or limit on cross harbor travel.
It's all getting so crowded and unbearable, even compared to five years ago. I was thinking of staying here longer term but now don't think we will . It's only going to get worse and more stressful.
Quite clearly the Government is doing it s best to get rid of all the annoying foreigners and middle classes and replace them with compliant mainlanders who will cover everything green in concrete abd be quite happy that the air their breathe is only half as polluted as whence they came.
So, how are the "tourists" going to get to their 16000 new hotel rooms? Subways are full and getting worse cuz of all the luggage. Roads are full of clogged traffic. Jez asking.
Oh dear god...
This is another typical issue of our government without a long term policy to look at issues. Remember the mainland mom a couple of years ago that was assigned to the then sec of health and became no mans land. Another analogy to look at it is if you were the father of a family but in order to make a living or to provide $ to kids u worked 7x24 but has zero time for your kids, would it worth it? Similarly having 70m to 100m visitors is creating money for the tourist and service industries but suffocating for local residents as all shops and resource will eventually cater for tourist. What's the point to living in HK?



SCMP.com Account