Hong Kong tourism board allocates 70pc of budget to overseas markets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 11:07am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 10:54pm

Hong Kong is putting more resources into expanding tourism from overseas, with 76 per cent of the city’s 2017 marketing budget allocated to attracting more international visitors, according to the city’s tourism promotion body.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board has secured a total of HK$480 million from the government so far this year.

“We were just given another HK$230 million from the government last week,” Anthony Lau Chun-hon, executive director of the tourism board, said at a symposium held by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, adding that details of the funding allocation would be unveiled later.

Tourist numbers from Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia reached an “all-time high” in 2016, Lau said, adding that 76 per cent of the tourism board’s marketing budget would therefore be used for attracting more international customers amid the expected lag in mainland Chinese visitors this year.

“We believe a volatile global economy, China’s ‘once a week’ visa policy, a weaker currency and changing customer behaviour will continue to affect mainland visitor numbers,” he said.

The city used to rely heavily on mainland visitors, who usually shop for luxury brands, jewellery and living necessities, which boosted the city’s economy.

In recent years, however, rising tensions between locals and mainlanders, a weaker yuan, as well as new restrictions on visa policy for mainland people visiting Hong Kong, all combined to drag down the visitor numbers.

Weighed down mainly by declining mainland visitors, Lau forecast that overall visitor numbers would drop by 2.2 per cent for 2017, while overnight arrivals should grow by 1 per cent this year.

In April 2015, Shenzhen authorities limited the number of visits its residents could make to Hong Kong from multiple entries a year to once a week, partly to curb parallel trading activities that were condemned by some Hong Kong activists, resulting in serious clashes between the two groups.

Traditionally, mainland tourists need to get visas issued by their local public security bureau every time they visit Hong Kong, even though the former British colony is part of Chinese territory.

However, having the advantage of being a neighbour to Hong Kong, Shenzhen residents had long enjoyed the privilege of having multiple entry visas that allowed them to visit Hong Kong as many times as they liked.

The “once a week” rule will still affect mainland visitor numbers “at least for a good part” of this year, said Lau.

In 2016 the number of Shenzhen visitors declined 29.4 per cent year on year to 8.88 million people, dragging down overall visitor numbers to Hong Kong by 4.5 per cent to 56.65 million people, according to the board’s latest figures.

To improve the situation, the government plans to develop more tourism-related infrastructure in the city, such as rejuvenating the Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail in Central, Philip Yung, permanent secretary of Commerce and Economic Development, said at the same symposium.

“Lots of new performance venues will also open in the West Kowloon Cultural District from 2018 to 2020,” he added.

Despite the efforts, tension between mainlanders and locals still exist after a series of incidents over the last couple of years, said Mariana Kou, head of China education and Hong Kong consumer research at brokerage firm CLSA. “That is something we have to [work on] a lot more to change,” she said.