Chinese tourists

Hong Kong's economy does not rely on mainland tourists, says financial secretary

Finance chief rejects as 'inconsistent with the facts' suggestion HK is too reliant on tourists

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 4:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 10:45am

The financial secretary brushed off as "exaggerated" and "inconsistent with the facts" suggestions the economy has become too reliant on mainland visitors.

John Tsang Chun-wah, writing on his blog yesterday, said although tourism contributed significantly to the economy - some HK$80 billion, or 3.9 per cent of gross domestic product annually - the city was far from over-reliant on mainland tourist dollars.

"Solo visitors [from the mainland, under the individual visit scheme] definitely contribute a smaller part of this number. Whether or not this figure is considered large is a matter of opinion, but it certainly cannot be called 'reliance'," Tsang wrote.

"To suggest that our economy is excessively reliant on individual visitors is slightly exaggerated and inconsistent with the facts."

He said arguing that the city was too reliant on the mainland economy "ignored the historical trajectory of Hong Kong's economic development over the past half-century".

Tsang wrote: "Hong Kong's economy and the country's development has always been closely linked," adding that the relationship was mutually beneficially and not about "who relies on whom".

But he conceded any drop in the number of solo visitors from the mainland could have a bearing on tourism-related industries such as retail and hospitality, which provided more than 220,000 jobs, many of them unskilled, and accounted for 6 per cent of the workforce.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying recently sought the views of the Commission on Strategic Development on the idea of curbing by 20 per cent a year the number of mainlanders visiting the city.

About 40 million mainlanders visit Hong Kong each year, but that figure is projected to hit 100 million by 2020, which has raised fears over whether the city can cope with the influx.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said yesterday that the number of mainland visitors needed to be cut by at least half.

"There is an obvious problem and the financial chief is in denial. He is playing ostrich," Mo, of concern group Hong Kong First, said. "The influx of solo tourists is creating resentment. [Tsang] must be ignorant to the lives of ordinary citizens."

Individual visit scheme travellers comprised 67 per cent of all mainland visitors in 2013.