Hong Kong attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. But since mid-last year, their numbers have decreased. Last year, Hong Kong received 10.4 million visitors, representing a decrease of 11 per cent when compared with numbers in 1996. The tourism industry blames the financial turmoil in the region and the movement in exchange rates for the decline. People have less spare cash to spend and prices in Hong Kong have increased than in other places. About 65 per cent of visitors in 1997 came from the region. In particular, mainland and Taiwan were the main sources of visitors. They accounted for 22 per cent and 17 per cent respectively of total visitors in the year, followed by Japan, which accounted for 13 per cent. Besides Southeast Asia, other major sources included Europe, the United States, Britain and Australia. Most visitors came on holiday. Others were not exactly 'tourists', as they came for various purposes, such as for conferences or doing business. Hence, the term 'visitors' should be used. It is also not surprising to find more visitors from the mainland visiting relatives and friends. Please note the term 'visitors' actually refers to 'visitor arrivals', meaning visitors, including those who make repeated trips to Hong Kong during the year, are counted every time they arrive. Hong Kong earns money from visitors as they spend on accommodation, food, sightseeing, souvenirs and other goods. Thus, continual growth in the number of visitors is important to economic growth. The Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) regularly conducts surveys on visitors regarding their spending. Working with the Immigration Department, the HKTA can estimate total visitor spending. This figure was $70 billion last year, 15 per cent lower than that of 1996. The HKTA also obtains information on per capita spending in respect of visitors from different countries. Spending data is also classified by the type of goods and services used. Of the $70 billion, 22 per cent was spent by visitors from the mainland, 18 per cent from Taiwan, and 13 per cent from Japan. These three groups topped all visitors. Per capita spending of visitors, which measures the amount which visitors spent on average during their stay, was $6,722 in 1997. This was slightly lower than that of 1996. The drop in per capita spending reflects a shorter average length of stay by visitors. The survey results revealed visitors from South and Central America had the highest per capita spending in 1997, which was $9,009, whereas visitors from France had the lowest, which was $5,164. It was found that visitors from Western countries usually spent more on hotel bills. For example, in 1997, visitors from the Americas (including the US, Canada and South and Central America) spent more than 53 per cent of total spending on hotel bills and less than 26 per cent on shopping. In contrast, visitors from Asian countries spent more on shopping. For example, visitors from the mainland spent more than 65 per cent on shopping but less than 15 per cent on hotel bills. Tourism is an important activity which generates income for Hong Kong. Its current situation is not very favourable and various parties are working hard to try to improve it. For more information on this series of articles, please write to the General Statistics Branch (2) of the Census & Statistics Department at Wanchai Tower, 12 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Or call 2582-4732.