Border malls make shopping easy for mainlanders, industry chief says
Call for convenient facilities emerges as immigration prepares to launch fast auto-clearance channels for visitors from across the border
Stuart Lau and Samuel Chan
More shopping centres are needed near the border and along railway lines to cope with an additional tens of millions of tourists expected in the coming years, an industry leader says.
Official estimates show the city may receive 70 million visitors annually in the next three years and 100 million within a decade, mostly from the mainland.
To cope with the influx, the government is working on an automated traveller clearance system at immigration checkpoints – similar to the E-channels for local residents – that will speed up entries from 75 seconds per person to about 20 seconds.
In the meantime, the city could set up retail facilities in the proposed locations to divert tourists from major shopping districts, Travel Industry Council chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng suggested on Monday.
“Based on what these tourists like, more retail spots can be sent up along railway lines or near the border to achieve divergence,” Wu said on RTHK.
“When you have other available retail spots for them, they would not flood places such as Mong Kok or Causeway Bay at the same time.”
Lantau Island could host some of the facilities, he said.
Last month, the Tourism Board said total visitor numbers last year could reach 54 million, up 11 per cent from 2012.
And, according to statistics from the first nine months of the year, average spending per visitor was about HK$8,000.
Wu said the government’s projections, announced by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung, would help the sector develop.
“The industry can base its recruitment and expansion plans on the figures, especially as some investments involve a longer period to yield returns,” he said.
On the automated clearance system, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said Guangdong province would start issuing smart-entry permit cards this quarter.
Chips embedded in the cards would store the biometric information and Hong Kong entry permit of a mainland resident, Lai told the Legislative Council Panel on Security on Monday.
The cards could then be read by automated immigration channels, thus shortening the processing time, he said.
The government would soon set up such clearance gates at border control points and would promote the new service to mainland visitors, he said.
The new arrangement, together with two upcoming checkpoints – at Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai and at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge – was expected to alleviate congestion at border crossings, Lai said.