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Another boost for Hong Kong tourism, as visitor numbers up again for September

Industry insiders eye big annual growth for 2017, after contractions in two previous years, for industry employing 280,000 in the city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 10:35pm

The recent uptick in Hong Kong’s visitor numbers has gained further momentum, new figures revealed on Tuesday, with tourist arrivals up 4.8 per cent year on year for September as more mainland travellers flock to the city.

Based on that trend, industry insiders forecast annual growth of between 2 and 3 per cent, thanks to festive season events and pleasant weather during the winter.

“If the increase in the fourth quarter can remain around 3 per cent, optimistically speaking, we may even get full-year growth above 3 per cent,” Yiu Si-wing, the legislator who represents the tourism industry, said.

The upturn comes after two consecutive years of decline for the industry, which employs more than 280,000 people in the city. The number of visitors to Hong Kong dropped 2.5 per cent in 2015 and 4.5 per cent in 2016.

Statistics released by the Tourism Board on Tuesday showed that in September more than 4.63 million visitors arrived in Hong Kong. Of those, 3.57 million, or 77 per cent, were from the mainland.

For the first nine months of this year, tourist arrivals grew 2.2 per cent year on year, to 42.63 million. The number of visitors staying overnight jumped 4.3 per cent.

Mainland tourists account for four out of every five visitors to Hong Kong.

Of those, the number who visited and left on the same day grew 7.8 per cent in September on a year earlier. The number of those who stayed overnight was up 6.3 per cent.

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Tung Yiu-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said Hong Kong had on average of 220 groups of mainland visitors every day for the year to October 30. That was 60 more than the daily average for 2016.

Industry veterans said mainland travellers were coming back as negative impressions of the city fade.

Tung said the greatest struggle for the travel industry started around two years ago, soon after 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy protests gave many north of the border an impression of the city as chaotic.

He said: “That impression has been generally dissolved, and scenes of confrontation at rallies and protests against mainland visitors have largely disappeared.”

Tung said the rebound would continue if the city remained welcoming to visitors.

Besides the change in social sentiment, Yiu said local agencies’ promotional work also contributed to the increase in mainland tour groups.

“Package tours to Hong Kong have become a popular choice as rewards offered to employees or customers by companies on the mainland,” Yiu said.

The growth was expected to last through the year’s final quarter.

“In October, we had the ‘golden week’ of [National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival] holidays and more events than September, such as the bicycle festival, Halloween, and the Wine and Dine Festival,” Yiu said.

Tung added: “In winter, many tourists, especially those from Southeast Asia, will come for the mild weather while the festive atmosphere, for example at Christmas, is particularly attractive to mainland visitors.”