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Hong Kong tourism and shopping sectors post good April figures, suggesting full recovery

Number of visitors staying overnight in city grows 5.7 per cent, accounting for nearly half of 5.03 million tourist arrivals in the month, boosted by ‘Golden Week’ holiday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 11:03pm

The recovery in Hong Kong’s tourism and shopping industries gained momentum in April, with double-digit growth in visitor numbers and retail sales.

The city’s tourist arrivals rose 11 per cent for April on a year earlier, meaning a third month of large growth in a row, the Tourism Board said on Thursday. Meanwhile, the government said retail sales jumped 12.3 per cent year on year.

The board said the number of visitors staying overnight grew by 5.7 per cent, accounting for nearly half of the overall 5.03 million tourist arrivals in the month.

The number of mainland Chinese travellers – who make up three in every four visitors to the city – staying overnight rose by 8.9 per cent.

Retail performance suggested good prospects for a full industry recovery. Hong Kong’s retail and tourism sectors had been hit by anti-mainland China sentiment, which some analysts said deterred mainland visitors, over the past three years.

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Thomas Cheng Wai-hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, said the sector’s April figures beat market expectations and that full-year growth was likely to be about 10 per cent, well above the 2.2 per cent increase for last year.

“If we look at April figures alone, this year’s is the second best in the past decade,” Cheng said. "We haven't seen growth across all categories in months.”

Lawmaker Yiu Si-wing, who represents the tourism sector, said China’s “Golden Week” holidays around May 1 helped bring more mainland visitors to Hong Kong in late April. He said that, that being the case, percentage growth for the year would not be quite as high as for the month.

“For the full year I think the overall arrivals will continue to grow at 5 to 8 per cent,” Yiu said. “Since the ‘Golden Week’ contributed a lot to the April figure.”

Looking at the first four months of the year as a whole, retail sales were up 13.9 per cent year on year and tourist arrivals were up 10 per cent.

Some economists said the Hong Kong dollar’s weakness against the US dollar and yuan made trips and shopping in the city more attractive.

If we look at April figures alone, this year’s is the second best in the past decade. We haven't seen growth across all categories in months
Thomas Cheng, Hong Kong Retail Management Association

The number of mainland visitors not staying overnight increased 19.5 per cent for April, accounting for about 55 per cent of mainland tourists.

“Tourists from other provinces such as Hunan and Sichuan in southwestern China will rise after the high-speed trains begin operation later this year,” Yiu said. He was referring to the express rail link which, when it opens, will link the city with the national high-speed network.

Jewellery and valuable gifts led the recent retail rally, up 24.6 per cent, while clothing added 6.3 per cent and sales of cosmetics were up 17.9 per cent.

“Large retailers like Sasa, Chow Tai Fook and Giordano continue to be strong, with their overall sales growth climbing in Hong Kong on a year-to-date basis,” Ken Wong, client portfolio manager at Eastspring Investments, said. “And hence why their share prices have also been strong this year.”