Anti-mainland China sentiment and the death of a Chinese tourist in October have caused of drop of 20 per cent in the number of mainland tourist groups to Hong Kong so far this year, according to Jason Wong Chun Tat, the new chairman of the Travel Industry Council, which represents roughly 8 per cent of total mainland visitors. Overall visitor arrivals from China, which include both individual tourists and tour groups, fell only 0.2 percent in the first 10 months this year, a much smaller decline than the 20 per cent dip in groups for the same period. Wong blamed the sharper decrease largely on the anti-parallel trading protests earlier this year and the death of a mainland tourist, which he said triggered stricter regulations on “no charge tours” by mainland authorities. In October, a Chinese tourist died after he was allegedly beaten unconscious by four men while trying to mediate a dispute between a fellow visitor and the tour group leader. Compared to individual tourists, tourist groups focus more on shopping, as they have certain schedules for visiting retail stores, such as jewellery, drug and electronics stores. “It’s normal that the number of groups declined more than individual visitors” said Cinda International associate director Hayman Chiu, adding the individuals are not subject to the recent crackdown by mainland authorities. Wong also warned that the opening of two casino complexes with several hotels in Macau could see mainland tourists splitting their spending between the two cities, due to cheaper hotel charges prompted by the larger supply. “We may see more casual travellers to Hong Kong who may be diverted to Macau,” said Charlie Chen, Head of Asian Consumer Research at French bank and financial services company BNP Paribas. However, he added, “it will take a long while for Macau to replace Hong Kong as a shopping destination”. With tourist arrivals to Hong Kong declining for six consecutive months, the new chairman called for the diversification of Hong Kong’s tourism development. Wong said the travel industry council was trying its best to echo the calls from the city’s tourism board to attract more overseas tourists by regulating market operations and training guides who speak foreign languages. However, Wong admitted that the increase brought by overseas tourists would not be enough to offset the decline in mainland tourists, given the large absolute number of the latter. “The ‘new normal’ for Hong Kong tourism is that more places join the competition,” said Wong, referring to how the ease of visa applications to countries such as Japan and Korea would divert more mainland tourists to other travel destinations.