Chinese tourists

Hong Kong visitor numbers slide for a third month, dashing hopes for a near-term recovery

While mainland tourist numbers continue to decline, increase in international visitors is a bright spot for tourism industry

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 10:59pm

Visitors to Hong Kong declined for the third month in a row in October, albeit at a slower pace, with mainland tourists leading the drop, according to visitor numbers released by the Tourism Board on Wednesday. The latest figures pour cold water on hopes that there will be a turnaround this year.

Visitors from the mainland fell 3.5 per cent year-on-year in October, an improvement from September’s 5 per cent decline. The softer landing was ostensibly due to the “golden week” holiday – the seven-day break from National Day on October 1.

Overall visitor numbers were down 2.4 per cent compared with October last year.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the decline could be due to several factors, including, the negative effect of the Mong Kok riot in February, liberalisation of visa policies allowing mainland tourists more destination choices, a weaker yuan relative to the Hong Kong dollar and the cancellation of multiple-entry visas for Shenzhen residents.

The negative numbers will dampen optimism felt by tourism officials who were upbeat there would be a turnaround after mainland visitor numbers rose in July.

“The government should invest in long-term tourism infrastructure to make Hong Kong more attractive to overseas and mainland tourists,” Yiu said, citing the government’s announcement that it would invest HK$5.8 billion in the HK$10.9 billion expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland as a good example.

“Moreover, the promotion of a culture of hospitality in Hong Kong will be helpful in reversing negative impressions of Hong Kong following recent chaos.”

But there were some silver linings in the latest statistics, as the short and long-haul tourist markets saw increases of 0.4 and 3.2 per cent respectively.

The Tourism Board attributed the increase in short-haul visitors to “putting more resources” into those markets.

Double-digital growth was achieved from markets such as South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia, with the latter taking top spot with an 18.1 per cent year-on-year increase.

The largest long-haul increase – at 8 per cent – was for Canadian visitors.

Overnight stays were also up for non-mainland visitors, increasing 3.1 per cent.

During the coming winter season, the Tourism Board said it would collaborate with airlines, hotels, attractions and overseas trade partners in launching “value packages” on the mainland and in short-haul markets in a bid to boost tourist numbers.

Young professionals and families will be targeted in promotions of winter events in Hong Kong “in the hope of drawing more overnight visitors” it said.

Yiu said he would like to see more tourism promotion resources allocated to wooing visitors from India and Russia as they had become “major market sources” in recent years.

According to Ernst and Young, India’s middle class will quadruple to 200 million in five years, making a vast pool of spenders various cities will try to attract.