Representatives of foreign tourism boards in Hong Kong have urged the government to provide statistics on local citizens' travel destinations to help them better promote tourism in their various countries. But the Immigration Department said their request was difficult to grant because it did not keep track of local citizens' movements around the world. Speaking at the launch of the Association of National Tourist Office Representatives in Hong Kong, the body's chairwoman, Casey Liu Pui-kam, said there had been a lack of such statistics since the launch of e-channels, with machines to read the identity cards and scan the fingerprints of Hong Kong residents crossing the city's borders. 'The Immigration Department used to have such statistics. We need such statistics and we have raised the issue with the Hong Kong Tourism Board as well,' Ms Liu said. 'We are also asking the Airport Authority whether such statistics would be available.' But providing such information on residents' travel destinations could be difficult, said the Immigration Department. 'Departure statistics are meant to be for reference. Even before the launch of e-channels, citizens had a choice not to tell our counter officers where they were going,' a spokesman said. 'The Immigration Department does not keep a record of local citizens' movements around the world. Hong Kong people are granted the freedom to travel. 'Plus, they might change flights on arrival at their first destination.' Ronnie Ho Pak-ting, chairman of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, said pooling foreign tourism offices' research material could benefit the local travel industry by enabling agents to formulate better strategies for organising tours for local travellers. Meanwhile, Mr Ho said the number of people going abroad this Christmas looked to be higher than last year. He said a double-digit year-on-year increase was expected, with expensive tour packages the earliest to be filled. He said Japan and Thailand remained the most popular destinations, while more distant destinations such as South Africa and even Antarctica were also doing extremely well this year.