Chinese tourists

Hong Kong Tourism Board eyes eGames amid slump in visitor numbers

Overall 2016 arrivals fall 4.5pc to 56.65 million amid tightening of regulations for Shenzhen permanent residents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 11:27pm

Travel restrictions on Shenzhen permanent residents visiting Hong Kong had “a greater and longer” adverse impact on the city’s tourist arrival figures than expected last year, according to a senior Hong Kong Tourism Board official.

Executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said on Wednesday that the number of Shenzhen visitors with a one-visit-per-week permit declined 29.4 per cent to 8.88 million people last year from 2015. This dragged down overall visitor numbers to Hong Kong by 4.5 per cent to 56.65 million people last year.

About three in every four visitors to Hong Kong were from across the border.

“The impact [of the visa restriction] is greater and longer than we expected,” Lau said.

In April 2015, Shenzhen authorities limited visits to Hong Kong by multiple-entry permit holders to once a week, partly to curb parallel trading activities.

Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok said: “The visa issue is still affecting the overall visitor numbers. It is hard to quantify its impact on 2017.”

Spending per head shrank about 5 per cent to HK$6,600 last year, which reflected that the tourism downturn continued to weigh on the city’s retail sales, the tourism chief said.

To boost tourism, Lam added, the board was in talks with relevant parties on the mainland and in Taiwan to bring eGames – competitive international e-sports video gaming – to Hong Kong.

“This is up and coming and will bring in many young visitors,” he said, adding that Central Harbourfront would be the best location for eGames events.

Lam said “more resources” would be earmarked to entice overseas visitors such as those from the region to stay overnight in Hong Kong, with HK$328 million funding from the government this year.

In addition to this annual funding, the board will receive a HK$70 million one-off cash grant to help promote and organise activities celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

The board will also receive an extra HK$200 million over the next three years, according to the policy address.

“We want to attract more overnight travellers, who spend more,” Lam said. Last year, overnight visitors declined 0.5 per cent to 26.55 million people whereas one-day visitors dropped 7.7 per cent to 30.1 million people.

Meanwhile, one more food truck was rolled out on Wednesday. It was the brainchild of former financial chief John Tsang Chun-wah two years ago to inject life into sagging tourism.

On its debut in Wong Tai Sin, Conina Mui Lok-man, operator of Ho Yuen Express’ food truck, invited the first 100 customers to recommend a price for its award-winning “super grilled squid”.

Customers were allowed to taste the signature dish at whatever price they were willing to pay, as long as they filled in a questionnaire.

“At this stage, we want more feedback,” Mui said.

Ho Yuen Express is competing with Ma Ma’s Dumpling, a food truck which has been selling six dumplings for HK$40 since last week at the same venue.

Around lunch time on Wednesday, dozens of curious locals wandered in front of the two newly launched food trucks in Wong Tai Sin. Many were busy taking photos, but only a few handed over cash to try the delicacies.

A local retiree surnamed Guan, 75, decided not to try the popular five-colour dumplings on offer after she found out how much they cost.

She said though dumplings were on offer at traditional restaurants for a similar price, customers could at least enjoy proper service in restaurants.

“There is not even a chair to sit on,” she said.