Income from overseas tourists has grown for the first time since the pre-handover boom in 1996, but tourism operators have been warned not to take this as a signal to raise prices. Year-end figures for 2000 released by the Hong Kong Tourist Association (HKTA) show that arrivals were up 15 per cent on 1999, overall spending was up 9.4 per cent but visitors were spending on average $252 less. The 5.3 per cent drop in per capita spending was attributed to a decrease in service fees and a trend towards shorter stays, with 34 per cent of visitors making just one-day stopovers. Tourists from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific cut their spending by more than 19 per cent, while visitors from China spent 10.5 per cent more than in the previous year. HKTA chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said the 15.3 per cent increase in visitor arrivals to 13.06 million and total tourism receipts of $61.5 billion were encouraging, but warned the industry not to become complacent. 'Competition from other destinations is increasing all the time and there are still economic uncertainties in many of Hong Kong's key source markets,' she said, saying any significant surge in hotel or retail prices could seriously affect the fragile recovery. 'We simply can't afford to let ourselves become complacent,' she said. The increase in arrivals from 11.3 million in 1999 to more than 13 million last year has lifted Hong Kong to 14th place in the World Trade Organisation's rankings of world tourism arrivals - its best performance in a decade. 'Even in the pre-handover years, in 1995 and 1996 when arrival numbers were at an unnaturally high level, Hong Kong only ranked in 15th and 16th place [respectively],' public relations manager Donna Mongan said. Mrs Chow said the HKTA was taking a 'positive but prudent' approach in forecasting a 7.8 per cent growth in arrivals to 14.07 million and an 8.8 per cent growth in receipts to $66.95 billion for 2001. The focus will be on long-haul markets and promoting a greater diversity of Hong Kong attractions to appeal to seniors, independent travellers and single professional women - all of whom have been identified as emerging markets. The tourism body is expected to be reconstituted and named the Hong Kong Tourism Board at the start of April.