Government urged to consider impact of surging tourism on Hong Kong

Big rise in cosmetics and personal-care shops since rules for mainland tourists were relaxed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 11:55am

The number of shops selling cosmetics and personal-care products in Hong Kong has surged by 1,500 per cent in the 10 years mainlanders have been allowed to visit without joining tours, Legislative Council research shows.

A report on the study, which examined the impact of the individual visit scheme, also urges the government to consider the social impact of tourism.

Shops selling clothes, shoes and jewellery have all increased in number according to the survey, conducted by the Legco research office.

It points to "remarkable" changes in retail alongside an increase in visitors from 16.6 million to 54.3 million between 2002 to 2013, and says the government has focused only on infrastructure in assessing the city's capacity to absorb visitors.

"The continued growth of visitors may lead to negative social impacts, such as the conflicts between tourists and local residents over the use of public transport, enjoyment of attractions and recreational facilities," the report says.

The report cites a European Commission study which recommended that "social carrying capacity", which measures the level of tourism that will not be resented by the local population, should be taken into consideration when assessing a city's tourism capacity.

Cosmetics and personal-care shops increased from 90 to 1,440 from 2004 to last year. The second biggest growth was in clothing and footwear shops, which rose 42 per cent in number to 15,410 in the same period. Jewellery and watch shops grew 31 per cent to 3,850.

The importance of mainland visitors in the market also leapt.

In 2004, Hong Kong residents contributed almost 80 per cent of the HK$191.6 billion shopping expenditure. Mainland visitors added about 14 per cent.

Ten years later, the contribution of locals has dropped to 62 per cent, while mainlanders contribute almost 35 per cent, with total retail sales more than doubling to HK$494.4 billion.

Maureen Fung Sau-yim, general manager of Sun Hung Kai Properties' leasing department, said both tourist and local demand had sparked the cosmetics boom.

"Hongkongers are under big pressure and focus a lot on personal care," she said, adding that a "wave" of Korean products was also a factor.

Demand from mainland tourists had meanwhile shifted from luxury gifts to personal items, such as clothes and household goods, Fung added.