Indians, Russians, eco-tourists to be wooed

Big-spending Indians and Russians will be the target of a drive by tourism chiefs to raise the number of visitors by three per cent this year.

The Hong Kong Tourist Association said campaigns in new markets and promoting 'green tourism' would help revive a battered industry.

Income from tourism fell 23.5 per cent last year to $55.3 billion, with the number of visitors down eight per cent compared with 1997. Association executive director Amy Chan Cheng Yi-yim said Hong Kong was still attracting more tourists than any other Asian city - almost double the number going to Singapore - and could expect 9.9 million visitors this year.

With financial turmoil still hurting tourism from other parts of Asia, Mrs Chan said more attention needed to be paid to untapped markets such as India, Russia and the Middle East.

India was one of only five countries to send more tourists than in 1997. 'India has 3.5 million people in the middle-income bracket that have the financial clout to go abroad.' Mrs Chan said new restrictions reducing the visa-free stay of visitors from the subcontinent would not affect bona fide tourists. Russia was a target because more than 800,000 Russians went to the mainland on holiday each year, but only about 5,000 came to Hong Kong.

Mrs Chan said environmental tourism was gaining fans worldwide, and the SAR had much to offer.