Hong Kong visitor numbers up 15.4 per cent on first day of golden week even as retailers complain

Commerce minister points to 15.4 per cent rise on first day of golden week holiday

Commerce minster Greg So Kam-leung said the city's visitor numbers on the first day of the National Day golden week on Thursday were up 15.4 per cent year on year - even though some retailers described it as "the worst ever" holiday period.

Immigration Department figures showed that the number of inbound tourists reached 430,000 on October 1, of whom 40 per cent were from the mainland.

So said yesterday that the number of mainland visitors surged 16.2 per cent.

"The streets might seem quiet … but we cannot draw any conclusions based on one-day figures," said So. "We need to look at whether some of the visitors are just transiting."

Cable car operator Ngong Ping 360 felt the pinch of the tourism downturn, with patronage down 9 per cent in July and August due to fewer inbound tourists and a strong Hong Kong dollar, according to its managing director, Stella Kwan Mun-yee.

She said it was too early to estimate how many would take the Lantau cable car during the National Day holidays.

Kwan said the firm would apply for money from a HK$10-million fund to lure tourists, and might try to partner with airlines, travel agencies and hotels to offer promotions, "especially in Southeast Asia".

She pinned hopes for a visitor surge on the world's first Ip Man experience hall, which will showcase scenes and costumes from the martial arts film, . The exhibit will run at Ngong Ping Village from November 26 until January 31 next year.

"We hope this crossover project will attract more locals and visitors and inject a dose of novelty into the city's tourism scene," said Kwan.

Meanwhile pharmacies, which have been popular with mainland visitors, are expecting poor business during the holiday. They say the approach of Tropical Storm Mujigae, which is strengthening into a typhoon, may also affect business.

"This golden week has already been quiet. Business has dropped by 30 to 40 per cent," said a 50-year-old salesman at a pharmacy in Causeway Bay. "The typhoon will have an impact. Who will walk on the street when there is a typhoon?"

May Lee, store owner of Man Sang Dispensary in Causeway Bay, said there had been a 40 per cent decline in business on Thursday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Visitor numbers up as retailers complain