The Hong Kong Tourism Board expects visitors to the city this year to rise by just over 5 per cent, or 1.5 million, to 31 million, and that they will spend HK$174 billion, 7 per cent more than last year's arrivals. The forecast follows better-than-expected visitor arrivals last year, which grew 0.3 per cent to almost 29.6 million; the board had predicted the total would fall by 1.6 per cent. Anthony Lau Chun-hon, the board's executive director, said arrivals rose last year thanks to a 6.5 per cent year-on-year increase in mainland visitors, to almost 18 million, despite the swine flu outbreak between May and July. He said the easing of restrictions on non-Guangdong residents of Shenzhen visiting Hong Kong in tour groups last month also helped. The board expects a further 7.5 per cent increase in mainland visitors this year, and Lau said the mainland market would remain the growth driver in the city's tourism sector. It expects 19.3 million to visit this year, meaning six in every 10 visitors will come from across the border. The number of visitors from elsewhere is expected to rise by only 1.7 per cent given the slow pace of recovery from the global economic crisis. The board will set aside about HK$18.8 million, or 10 per cent of its budget, to promote the city's attractions in emerging markets such as India, the Middle East and Russia. The number of visitors from Taiwan fell 10 per cent last year, and the board expects a drop of another 12 per cent because direct flights between the island and the mainland has reduced the need for passengers to transit through Hong Kong. The board plans to tap into green tourism in Hong Kong by promoting hiking trails and the city's first geopark, and to highlight Hong Kong as an arts hub in the long term. It also plans to promote Hong Kong as a festive city by dividing the year into six periods, each emphasising traditional festivals. One will be the annual Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Regatta, which will become a three-day event and include a beer festival. To mark its 35th anniversary, the regatta will return to the Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront. The board is also promoting multi-destination tours with partners in Guilin , Yunnan , Xian , Guangdong, Shanghai, Beijing and Hainan . It will look at the opportunities to draw visitors to the World Expo in Shanghai - and Asian Games in Guangzhou - to Hong Kong before and after those events.