Chinese tourists

Hong Kong tourist numbers up, but no cash bonanza for retailers as Chinese visitors spend less and leave sooner

First three days of week-long National Day holiday saw 3.6 per cent more tourists visit than in same period last year, but ‘visitors right now are totally different from those in previous years’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 11:19pm

The first three days of this year’s week-long National Day holiday saw 3.6 per cent more tourists visit Hong Kong than did so in the same period last year, but retailers and hoteliers have been unable to cash in on the influx because mainland visitors have been spending less and leaving sooner.

The number of mainlanders, who accounted for 81 per cent of all tourist arrivals, grew by a moderate 0.9 per cent between September 30 and October 2, according to statistics compiled by the Immigration Department.

Visitors from overseas jumped 17.1 per cent during the same period.

Tourism industry insiders said a great portion of the arrivals were day-trippers from Guangdong province and transit passengers flying to other destinations.

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“The tourists in the city right now are totally different from those in previous years,” Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yiu-chung said, because they were spending far less than overnight tourists. Tung said he expected that trend to continue.

Mainland tourists spent an average of HK$7,105 per visitor in Hong Kong in the first half of this year, a drop of 15.8 per cent on the same period last year, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said. That figure was above HK$9,000 in 2014 when mainland visitor numbers hit a record.

Luxury clothing brands and jewellers have suffered most from the changing consumption patterns.

Chow Sang Sang, one of the city’s biggest jewellers, saw its business drop more than 15 per cent over the weekend on last year’s figure for the same period. This was despite the number of visitors to its shops showing no decrease.

“What really matters is the consumption pattern of customers, not the number of visitors,” Lau Hak-bun, director for Greater China at the firm, said.

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He said customers used to buy big-ticket jewellery worth between HK$30,000 and HK$50,000, but now they preferred cheaper items for daily wear usually under the HK$10,000 price tag.

Only a few customers were queuing up outside luxury shops such as Chanel and Gucci on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui on Saturday morning.

Three mainland visitors the Post approached separately in the popular shopping district said they would return to the mainland or visit Macau later that afternoon because “one day is enough for shopping” and hotels were too expensive.

At the same time, fewer overnight visitors meant hotels were not able to raise room rates as they used to.

William Cheng Kai-man, chairman of Magnificent Hotel Investment, which manages more than 2,500 rooms in seven hotels across the city, said room rates over the week-long holiday were only slightly higher than on normal days instead of double as had been the case in the past. Rooms were still available for October 6 and 7.

“Frankly, the past trend of doubling room rates for these holidays just scared away mainland tourists to other destinations,” he said.