An influx of independent mainland travellers and improved domestic consumption are speeding up the resurgence of the retail sector, with shopping centre occupancy improving and rentals rebounding, according to landlords. Hysan Development, the largest commercial landlord in Causeway Bay, has seen retail portfolio occupancy rise to 98 per cent from 96 per cent a year earlier while overall rentals have returned to levels seen before the outbreak of Sars. Lora Luke, Hysan Development retail leasing general manager, said retail rentals had plunged 10 per cent to 20 per cent during March and April, at the height of Sars. 'The rentals achieved in the latest renewed contracts had returned to the level before Sars,' Ms Luke said. She said the company would not consider further rental increases until the overall economy had stabilised. But Hysan has pinned its hopes on China's more affluent residents and two years ago it began advertising its shopping centres in mainland cities to attract outbound business travellers. Ms Luke said about 20 per cent of tenant turnover was from mainland contributions, compared with about 10 per cent a year ago. Sino Land leasing general manager Chan Cheong-kit said the retail sales market was on the way back up, and the company would raise rentals at the Island Resort shopping centre in Siu Sai Wan by 20 per cen,t and at Tuen Mun Town Plaza in Tuen Mun by 10 per cent to 15 per cent. Retail sales in July fell 2.7 per cent year on year, aided by the return of mainland visitors and local shoppers after the Sars crisis. The government estimated that between 60,000 to 70,000 mainland tourists arrived in Hong Kong during the 'golden week' holidays starting October 1. Of those, 20,000 were individual travellers. Faced with growth in potential customers, Sun Hung Kai Properties said it would be allocating up to $5 million to promote six Hong Kong shopping centres to key mainland cities before Christmas. Cris Fung Yick-lam, SHKP corporate affairs assistant manager, said: 'The customer flow recorded in our Grand Century Place in Mongkok surged about 30 per cent year on year. Other [malls] such as New Town Plaza in Sha Tin had a 20 per cent increase. Landmark North in Sheung Shui gained about 10 per cent.' She said the company would conduct road shows in a selection of mainland cities that allowed individuals to visit Hong Kong. Other developers are also marketing their Hong Kong shopping centres to mainlanders. The Mass Transit Railway Corporation organised promotional programmes at Telford Plaza in Kowloon Bay and Maritime Square in Tsing Yi during the National Day holiday. A promotion booth was set up at Shenzhen Joint Inspection Building in Lowu. An MTRC spokeswoman said the company's long-term strategy for independent mainland travellers was to further enhance its tenant mix to provide a greater variety of shops and more choice for customers.