The "golden week" holiday is losing its lustre in Hong Kong, with the number of mainland tour groups arriving for next week's National Day break expected to be at least 15 per cent lower than usual. Instead, mainlanders are taking advantage of a late Mid-Autumn Festival and the loosening of visa regimes elsewhere in the world to take long-haul trips. The Inbound Tour Operators Association yesterday said the number of bookings so far was just 60 per cent of last year's total. While last-minute bookings are expected to boost the figure, the association expects only 270 groups to arrive this year - 15 per cent fewer than in 2014. "Mainland tourists prefer long-haul tours," said association chairman Ricky Tse Kam-ting. By taking just three extra vacation days, mainlanders can use the Mid-Autumn holiday on Sunday and the seven days off for National Day from Wednesday next week to take 11 days off in total. "The relaxation of visa restrictions prompted the Chinese to visit Europe - a totally new place to them," Tse said. Tse said Hong Kong was no longer the top choice for short tours. Given the weak Asian economies and strong US dollar, mainlanders tended to head to Southeast Asia instead. Tours to Japan were also fully booked. Tse was worried that the city was losing its draw to mainlanders, many of whom had made multiple trips. "Visiting Hong Kong was a fresh idea to them 10 years ago," he said. "Now they have seen most of the attractions. Anything new the city can offer to stay attractive? Nope." Hotels Association chairman Victor Chan Kok-wai said only half the city's hotel rooms were booked for "golden week" so far - a 10 per cent decline on bookings at the same period last year. He said hotels would slash rates by 15 per cent in the hope of boosting occupancy to 90 per cent. At Tsim Sha Tsui's four-star Kimberly Hotel, a standard room next Wednesday is on offer for HK$1,000, down from HK$1,200 on National Day last year. Even at that price, a hotel spokesman said only 40 per cent of rooms were booked, and further discounts were likely. Michael Wu Siu-ieng, chairman of the Travel Industry Council, expected the number of mainland visitors arriving next week to be up 3 per cent on last year. He agreed that "golden week" in Hong Kong no longer had the same appeal to mainland tourists, who were now able to choose from more than 100 international destinations. Yet Hong Kong still enjoyed a geographical advantage, Wu said, and in the long run the industry should seek to attract mainlanders for a long weekend - like the one many enjoyed for this month's special holiday marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. "Taking Victory Day as an example, Hong Kong and Macau are still top destinations for a three-day trip as we are just around the corner," he said. Besides mainstream attractions like The Peak, Wu encouraged visitors to explore rural areas and outlying islands. Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok was also "not optimistic", noting that the number of mainland visitors had been falling since June. The Immigration Department estimates 10 million passengers will pass through Hong Kong's border control points during the Mid-Autumn Festival and "golden week" holiday. Last year's National Day "golden week" came at the height of the Occupy protests, but 1.1 million mainland tourists still visited. That was a year-on-year increase of 6.8 per cent, compared with the 17.7 per cent increase recorded in 2013.