Hong Kong tourism sector expects ‘super golden week’ to be boon for business

An extended holiday on the mainland will translate into double the amount of tour groups, although industry insiders predict spending patterns to change

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 3:07pm

Hong Kong’s tourism and dependent industries were optimistic on Wednesday that an extended holiday on the mainland – dubbed “super golden week” – would translate into a boost in profits, with double the amount of tour groups expected and hotel rooms filling up fast.

Industry insiders also predicted changing consumption patterns for visitors, shifting focus from tourist and shopping hotspots to outlying islands and the countryside.

The golden week holiday was started on the mainland in 2000 as a way to increase domestic tourism and raise the standard of living. While the traditional golden week holiday lasts three to five days, mainland workers will enjoy an extended eight-day break this year starting this weekend, as the National Day public holiday coincides with Mid-Autumn Festival.

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Visitors – especially those who live in nearby regions – might shun theme parks and traditional tourist districts and opt for an “in-depth” experience of Hong Kong, Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said.

“We may see more of them visiting outlying islands and beaches ... hiking routes in the countryside are also growing in popularity,” he said.

Tung said initial forecasts suggested about 250 inbound tours would arrive from the mainland daily during the period, double the amount last year.

“But I must stress that inbound tour groups only make up 6 per cent of all [mainland] visitors.”

The majority now make use of the Individual Visit Scheme, which allow residents of Guangdong province, as well as those of 28 major cities across China to visit the city without having to sign up for a package tour.

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Hong Kong received 42.7 million visitors from the mainland last year, down 6.7 per cent from 2015.

Ricky Tse Kam-ting, Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association chairman, said forced shopping would not be on the itineraries of most inbound groups next week.

“A lot of these tours charge premium rates as it’s peak season, so we should see less shopping trips for package tours,” he said.

But retailers remained hopeful that mainland visitors would go on a spending spree. Tsoi Chung-kin, chairman of the Retail and Wholesale Trades Employees Association, said daily necessities and health care products would be on top of the shopping list.

“Chinese herbal medicine used to be the most sought after products, but the younger generation now look for vitamins and supplements as well,” he said, adding mooncakes by Hong Kong bakeries would also be another hot item.

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However, retailers of electronics and luxury goods may be disappointed, as Tsoi said consumption patterns had changed.

“Mainland consumers now have abundant choices back home. Why do they have to buy electronic gadgets in Hong Kong?”

A report by China’s National Tourism Administration predicted 710 million domestic and overseas trips would be made during the period, incurring an expenditure of 590 billion yuan (HK$694 billion).

Around 21 per cent would visit Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, while 16.7 per cent would travel overseas.

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According to Japanese media, the Chinese government has recently curbed the number of tours to Japan, a long-time favourite for Chinese tourists.

Together with a ban imposed on South Korean package tours – in retaliation for Seoul’s decision to deploy THAAD anti-missile defence system earlier this year – Hong Kong is likely to receive more visitors from across the border than in previous years.

The surge in visitors was also reflected by robust demand for accommodation. Tourist Guest Houses Federation of Hong Kong chairman Sam Lau Kung-shing said rooms for many motels were fully booked as early as a month ago.

Andy Ho, whose Sea View Holiday House offers 20 rooms on the island of Cheung Chau, remained cautious about a potential business boom.

“Most of my customers come on a walk-in basis, so it’s too early to judge,” he said. “Good weather is crucial too.”