Travel agencies in Hong Kong eye growth in high-speed mainland China business via tour packages
Popular firm predicts 20 per cent surge in its cross-border profits due to link
Eager for their slice of the high-speed rail pie, Hong Kong travel agencies scrambled on Sunday to cash in on tour package offerings aboard the new cross-border link.
China Travel Service’s deputy general manager, Ng Hi-on, said the firm had organised eight high-speed rail tours to and from various mainland destinations with more than 300 people joining.
“The tickets were sold out very quickly, just within two days,” Ng added, noting inquiries had poured in before the formal launch. “We received very good response, especially for the trips beyond Guangdong province such as to the city of Guilin and to Fujian province. They were highly popular.”
Wing On Travel CEO Lanny Leung said on the first day it had only introduced three outbound tours: to Shenzhen, Dongguan and Shantou. Together the excursions drew more than 100 visitors.
Leung believed certain medium-haul destinations such as Guilin, Wuhan and Xiamen would be popular among Hongkongers.
She said Wing On planned to launch about 150 to 200 outbound tours every month and that the high-speed rail tours were expected to boost the travel agency’s mainland business by 20 per cent.
“With an increasing number of express rail tours, we expect the overall quality of Hong Kong tourism to be enhanced,” Leung added.
Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the cross-border link’s debut marked an important milestone for the local industry.
“The high-speed rail has provided an inspiration for the tourism sector to create more products such as new tour lines to mainland cities,” he said.
But Yiu pointed out there had been some confusion about issuing tickets and making bookings for tour groups, with some agents needing to take “time to learn” about the arrangements.
“Because of these confusions there weren’t too many organised tours today,” he said on Sunday. “But now that the MTR Corporation has clarified matters, I believe there will be more outbound tours to the mainland.”
He explained the rail operator was willing to open the high-speed rail tours to travel agencies other than the 18 designated firms, and relax procedures for issuing tickets.
Jason Wong Chun-tat, general manager of Hong Thai Travel Services, said his firm would continue to introduce more express rail tours to different mainland cities and anticipated expanding its product lines along the routes.
“Today we had a tour of 50 people to Chaoshan. For the next two days we’ll have a tour involving 100 people each day.
“The response has been really good for these tours. We’ll keep increasing our plans for them.”
Wong said Hong Thai would focus on promoting medium-haul destinations such as Chaoshan, Changsha and Guizhou.
“Since these destinations are so popular among local residents, we will convey the situation to the MTR Corp and request they add more trains for these places.”
Meanwhile, Ocean Park and Disneyland each partnered with tour company GZL International Travel Service in Guangzhou to bring in mainland tourists. More than 35 and 100 mainland visitors respectively joined the first tours with the theme parks.
GZL International’s vice general manager, Li Nianyang, said the Ocean Park tour cost 429 yuan (US$62) per person, covering a one-way trip and the park entrance ticket.
“With the high-speed rail shortening the travel time from Guangzhou to these theme parks, I envision organising more express railway-theme park tours,” Li added.
Lo Kai-fung, who arrived on an Ocean Park tour with his wife and their four-year-old son, said in the past it had taken him about three hours to arrive in Hong Kong from Guangzhou.
“Now with the express railway I can arrive in Hong Kong very early and then I can have the whole day to enjoy Ocean Park. Also the tour fees are very cheap.”