As more mainland tourists visit Hong Kong early in Year of the Rooster, commerce chief hopes food trucks boost economy
City’s overall tourist figures up 5.1 per cent the week from Lunar New Year’s eve
Hong Kong saw a 6.6 per cent increase in mainland visitors in the seven days from Lunar New Year’s Eve compared with last year, and the commerce minister expressed hope the city could draw even more tourists following the debut last week of a food truck scheme.
The tourist uptick starkly contrasted with last year’s figures for the period, when the city recorded a 12.1 per cent dip in mainland tourists from 2015.
“By introducing the food trucks, mega events and other characteristic cultural [projects] ... I hope we can draw more tourists to Hong Kong and strengthen the economy,” Greg So Kam-leung said on Sunday.
Official figures show 930,463 mainland tourists visited the city in the seven days from Lunar New Year’s Eve, marking a 6.6 per cent rise on last year.
In terms of the total number of tourists from all over the world, 1.12 million people visited during the period this year – up 5.1 per cent on 2016.
On Friday, three food trucks hit the streets as part of a two-year pilot scheme that will eventually see 16 restaurants on wheels serving their specialities at designated locations throughout the city.
Chief executive contender John Tsang Chun-wah, who proposed the food truck project when he was financial secretary, said on Saturday the HK$20 pineapple bun he bought tasted good but was “overpriced”.
Watch: Five rules for Hong Kong’s food trucks
Yet So said the long queues at the food trucks illustrated that both public and visitors alike had no problems with price levels.
“The prices are determined by the operators. I think in view of the long queues, we can tell it is really popular in terms of both tourists as well as Hong Kong residents,” he said, adding that the high-volume crowds had indicated “a degree of acceptance”.
So remained optimistic that demand would be sustained over the long term, describing the scheme as exciting and contributing to “the fabric of the attractions of Hong Kong”.
The commerce minister reiterated the government had picked 16 restaurant operators out of a pool of 190 applicants.
He emphasised he did not want to give up on the rest of the applicants.
“If we are able to find more suitable locations, we hope to bring in more food trucks,” he said.
Gordon Lam Sui-wa, a food truck operator selling burgers for HK$68 apiece, said on Sunday prices were reasonable.
He imported an HK$800,000 food truck from Denmark and applied to the scheme as an individual, with the firm backing of a local restaurant chain, LH Group.
Lee Tai-shing, a member of a group supporting street food culture, said some small eatery operators were interested in the scheme but felt they were unable to buy a food truck to participate.