Fewer Hongkongers are flying off on holiday this Christmas than last year, and travel agents are blaming the worsening economic outlook and the fact that the Lunar New Year holiday is only a month away. Between Saturday and January 6, 177 extra flights had been laid on from Hong Kong, a drop of 50 from the corresponding period last year, the Civil Aviation Department said. Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, managing director of EGL Tours, which has 400 tour groups flying out over the Christmas break, said: 'We see a 10 per cent drop in customer numbers this Christmas.' . 'Christmas is so close to the Lunar New Year, so holidaymakers who used to travel for both festivals are choosing to go on holiday for one or the other.' Taiwan was one of the most popular destinations and had wooed some who avoided Thailand because of the political instability, he said. The 40 per cent drop in the value of the South Korean currency, the won, since April had enticed more Hongkongers to enjoy a white Christmas in South Korea, Mr Huen said. His agency had sold 10 per cent more trips to South Korea this holiday season than a year ago. The Civil Aviation Department said there would be 69 extra flights to Taiwan, up from 41 a year earlier, but only 85 to Japan - a drop of 11 from last year - and only 16 extra flights to South Korea, against 37 a year ago. There was a surge in departures from the city yesterday. By 10pm, 369,331 people had left by land, sea and air, the government said. Echoing Mr Huen's comments, Wing On Travel chief executive Lanny Leung said many Hongkongers would travel during the Lunar New Year instead of at Christmas, because combining the three public holidays with the weekend before Lunar New Year would give them a five-day break. Ms Leung said that in view of the economic situation her agency was running fewer high-end tours this Christmas than a year earlier. Only 40 per cent are high-end this year, compared with 70 per cent last Christmas. She said a five-day guided tour to Hokkaido, in northern Japan, cost less than HK$10,000, compared with HK$15,000 last year. The average Wing On tour group customer had spent HK$4,000 this holiday, down 10 per cent from last Christmas. One woman who in previous years had travelled with her family to Europe or Japan over the Christmas holiday said they would be staying in Hong Kong this year, though they planned a short trip to Macau early next month. 'It's cheaper to go somewhere closer on non-public holidays,' she said. 'The economy may be worse next year and I'd better spend more cautiously.' But another holidaymaker, whose company has just sacked some staff, left for northern Europe yesterday. He said he had planned the trip in advance and wanted to have a family holiday while he still had a job. The Hong Kong Tourism Board said visitor arrivals last month fell 1.1 per cent from a year earlier, mainly because of a significant drop in long-haul visitors from the Americas, Europe and Africa.