Public want controls on mainland visitors: poll

Research reveals local fears amid concern that government's projections are too low

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 3:38am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 3:38am

Almost two-thirds of Hong Kong people want controls on the influx of individual mainland visitors, a university survey shows.

Results of the poll by the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese University were released as lawmakers questioned whether a government projection that visitor arrivals would reach 70 million in 2017 and 100 million in 2023 was an underestimate.

Some 64 per cent of the poll's 880 respondents agreed that the multiple-entry permit scheme for Shenzhen permanent residents should be scrapped.

About 12 million Shenzhen residents visited Hong Kong last year, up from 1.47 million in 2009 when the scheme was introduced.

More than three in five participants supported a quota for travellers under the Individual Visit Scheme that allows residents of 49 mainland cities to visit Hong Kong without a tour group.

More than two-fifths saw the scheme as beneficial, while 29 per cent saw it as detrimental.

Despite the benefits, a majority of interviewees thought that visitor numbers had exceeded the city's capacity, and that tourists brought inconvenience to their daily lives.

At a special meeting of the Legislative Council's Finance Committee yesterday, both pan-democrat and Beijing-loyalist lawmakers lambasted the commerce and tourism chiefs for their sluggish response to the boom in visitor numbers.

Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party said the number of individual mainland visitors had seen double-digit growth over the past few years.

The total number of visitors increased by 11.7 per cent from 2012 to 54 million. The projection of 70 million in 2017, however, was based on a smaller annual growth rate of 6.56 per cent.

"Given that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and [Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong] Express Rail Link will be completed in the coming years, why would the government assume a slowdown in tourism growth?" he asked.

Unionist Chan Yuen-han agreed. Economic benefits of tourism should be recognised, but authorities should formulate policies to solve the capacity problems, she said.

Tourism Commission chief Philip Yung Wai-hung said the government had taken previous growth trends into consideration when estimating visitor numbers. But a change in mainlanders' travel patterns in future might cause the growth rate to slow.