The tourism industry in Hong Kong is steadily recovering from the Sars outbreak, as arrivals exceeded 720,000 last month, according to the latest figures released by the Tourism Board. While that figure was still 38.2 per cent below the number of visitors during the same month last year, it is an increase from May - which was 67.9 per cent down from the previous year. The level of arrivals from the mainland grew by 11 per cent, to 470,562 for the month. Acting Financial Secretary Stephen Ip Shu-kwan said the number of tourist arrivals continued to increase in July. 'As Sars has died down, the tourist flow has recovered to 70 per cent [of the pre-Sars level],' he said. 'The arrival of two of the world's most famous soccer teams will continue to boost tourist figures. We will film the soccer teams' tour around the tourist attractions and we shall use them as promotional material,' he said. Grace Lee, the Tourism Board's deputy director, said the trend appeared encouraging, although there was still a long way to go before arrivals recovered to pre-Sars levels. 'Early figures from July confirm a continuing upward pattern,' Ms Lee said. 'We have already surpassed June arrivals with more than 760,000 visitors in the first 20 days [of July].' The average hotel occupancy rate stood at 34 per cent last month, while higher-tariff hotels fared slightly better. Many four-star hotels reported they were fully booked in the past week. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association will launch a series of promotions to speed up the industry's recovery from Sars. The First Asian Exhibition Forum, to be held on August 28, will have about 200 overseas delegates presenting reports on the impact of Sars and exchanging plans for future co-operation.