HONG KONG'S tourism industry is booming, despite constraints such as limited capacity at Kai Tak airport and a shortage of hotel rooms during peak periods. Following a record performance in 1994, when tourist arrivals peaked at 9.3 million - representing an increase of 4.4 per cent over 1993 - the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) predicts that arrivals this year will reach 10 million. Tourist spending last year also exceeded previous highs - $64.3 billion. For the first half of this year, arrivals were 7.8 per cent higher than for the same period last year. The HKTA believes receipts will easily reach their conservative forecast for the year of $70.7 billion. Receipts for the first half of the year are already 15 per cent ahead of earnings in the same period last year. Martin Barrow, the HKTA chairman, told the association's annual meeting last month that Hong Kong must not price itself out. He predicted that tourism, at its present rate of growth and aided by development of the Chek Lap Kok airport, would become the territory's biggest foreign exchange earner by 2000, taking over the top spot from the garment and textile industry. Mr Barrow said neither of the constraints caused by congestion at Kai Tak airport nor limited hotel rooms would appreciably ease before 1998. The Government had recently accepted the proposals of a study of the tourism industry commissioned by the association. The study identified the need for pro-active official policies to ensure that hotel development becomes a more viable option for property developers. The Government has responded by making prime hotel-zoned land available on reclamation sites and at sites near the new airport and railway. The study incorporated a range of tourism-related issues aimed at creating a comprehensive and forward-looking strategy and action plan. The recommendations of the study are to be presented to the Government in December. 'Our industry's ability to plan ahead has been enhanced dramatically by the Government's commitment to vitally important infrastructure projects,' Mr Barrow said. 'It is impossible to imagine how our industry could grow if we could not count on the openings of Chek Lap Kok and its railway system, the Convention and Exhibition Centre extension and the China ferry terminals. 'All these developments give me confidence that the tourism industry will soon become Hong Kong's number one foreign exchange earner.' HKTA figures show that, from January to June this year, tourist receipts totalled $34.8 billion, compared with $30.21 billion in the same period last year. Visitors contributed $33.86 billion, servicemen (excluding the British military) $74 million, air crews $491 million and transit passengers $380 million. Tourists from Taiwan topped contributions to tourism receipts, spending $7.78 billion from January to June. Tourists from North Asia (Japan and South Korea) were the second biggest source of revenue, spending $6.78 billion, while tourists from South and Southeast Asia spent $4.67 billion. Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific visitors spent $1.12 billion. Taiwanese also led per capita spending, with $9,271, followed by visitors from North Asia at $7,707. Shopping accounted for 50 per cent of tourist spending - $17.06 billion from January to June, compared with $15.33 billion in the same period in 1994. This represented 52 per cent of receipts. Hotel bills accounted for $9.91 billion, up from $8.13 billion in 1994.