Hong Kong's economy depends on tourism to help create employment and boost the growth of other sectors. In 2008, tourism generated HK$43.8 billion, or 2.8 per cent of Hong Kong's GDP, and accounted for almost 6 per cent of total employment, according to The Situation of the Four Key Industries in the Hong Kong Economy in 2008, a report compiled by the Census and Statistics Department and based on annual economic surveys. The other industries are financial services, trading and logistics and producer and professional services. Numbers for last year are still being collected and will be available by the end of the year, says Amanda Fok, a statistician on industrial production and tourism at the Census and Statistics Department. Inbound tourism is responsible for the biggest chunk of the value-added figure, thanks to increasing surges of visitors from the mainland. In 2008, visitors to Hong Kong totalled more than 29.5 million, 57 per cent of those were from the mainland, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. While total visitors only increased 0.3 per cent last year, numbers from the mainland jumped 6.5 per cent compared with 2008. Inbound tourism covers retail trade, hotels and boarding houses, restaurants, other personal services, travel and airline ticket agents and passenger transport services, but all of these only relate to inbound tourists, according to the report. For outbound tourism, it's more straightforward. Travel and airline ticketing agents, and cross-boundary passenger transport services are included, but only relate to Hong Kong residents travelling abroad. There's no distinction between leisure and business travellers, Fok says. For travel agents, that distinction can determine the strength of their business. Thanks to business travellers, Connaught Travel didn't feel the pinch of the economic downturn, says Rosanna Chapman, travel consultant at the agency, which mostly handles outbound travel. Business is 'basically the same', with the exception of those business travellers downgrading to flying lower classes, although this has improved 'a little bit' this year, she adds. From January to March, there were more than 1.3 million transactions related to ticket sales in Hong Kong, a 10 per cent increase on the same period last year, according to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong. Those transactions amounted to about HK$4.48 billion, an almost 30 per cent increase over the same period last year. While Connaught Travel might not have suffered much, airlines did. 'The global recession in the first half of last year saw extremely challenging business conditions for commercial aviation,' wrote Christopher Pratt, chairman of Cathay Pacific, in a letter as part of the airline's 2009 interim report for the six months ended June 30. Passenger numbers carried by Cathay and Dragonair fell by 4.2 per cent during the six-month period. Higher fuel prices and a fall in premium business travel contributed to a tough time for the airline. But things seem to be picking up. Last month, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair's collective passenger load increased 6 per cent compared with the same month last year. 'Passenger volume and yield trends continued to improve,' says Tom Owen, Cathay Pacific general manager of revenue management.