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Hong Kong could get massive influx of tourists from mainland China during ‘golden week’ as words spreads about new high-speed rail link

Tour operators predicting as many as 300 tours a day to city, although industry experts sound note of caution in raising expectations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2018, 4:39pm

Nine thousand visitors from tour groups could flood into Hong Kong daily from mainland China during the coming “golden week” holiday – a 50 per cent surge from last year in volume for this segment – as word spreads about the new cross-border high-speed rail link.

With the break following National Day on October 1, tour operators are predicting as many as 300 tour groups a day to the city, each with about 25 to 30 people, according to Ricky Tse Kam-ting, founding president of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association.

His comments came as the MTR Corporation, the rail giant operating the local stretch of the high-speed line, said it anticipated a sharp rise in travellers over the next week with some 250,000 tickets sold to coincide with the break.

The rail giant said, however, that as the line had only just launched, some tour groups might not yet offer packages that include a trip on the cross-border link. About 46,000 passengers per day boarded trains from Hong Kong since the link opened last week, a figure well below the government’s initial estimate of 80,000.

Tse remained optimistic, pointing to the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link raising the city’s profile: “The rail opening helped mainland people hear more about Hong Kong, allowing the city to advertise itself.” His association has about 200 members.

Su Ying-shan, the manager of Guangzhou-based GZL International Travel Service, echoed Tse’s remarks, saying Hong Kong had become a popular destination after the express rail opened.

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“In the past, there would be fewer [customers coming to Hong Kong] after the fifth day of the golden week. But this time, business is prosperous from day one to seven,” she said, referring to bookings received in advance.

Ricky Tse predicted that between 250 and 300 tours would visit the city every day during the seven-day “golden week” holiday, compared with between 150 and 200 last year. The period last year spanned eight days because it coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Tse said while less than 10 per cent of the expected tours would take the new rail link, newly built three- to four-star hotels in the city, as well as the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, also drew mainlanders’ attention to the city and would push growth.

Tse said most of the tours this year, priced at about HK$3,000 (US$383), offered stays of two to three nights in the city, and many were from second and third-tier cities such as Guiyang, in Guizhou.

The forecast offered by Jason Wong Chun-tat, chairman of the Travel Industry Council, was less rosy. Wong believed the number of tours would be similar to 2017 figures, with about 130 tours on average daily, and at most about 200 on a single day.

High-speed rail set to bring bumper ‘golden week’ for Hong Kong tourism

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing made a similar estimation, pointing to the 30 to 50 per cent hotel price increase in Hong Kong during the peak holiday season. He added that local hotels were more than 90 per cent full during previous golden weeks.

But Yiu was positive that the number of individual visitors would rise.

He predicted a 5 to 10 per cent growth in the number of overnight visitors, and a more than 10 per cent increase of tourists coming and leaving the city on the same day.

GZL International Travel Service also revealed a certain amount of its customers would choose to visit Guangzhou and Hong Kong on a trip by ordering individual travel packages.

MTR Corp operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing suspected the express rail link might not be popular with mainland tour groups in its early days.

“The rail line is still new,” Lau said. “Travel companies might not dare to launch tour groups during the golden week holidays.”

Separately, the city recorded about 5.9 million visitors in August, up from 5.02 million in the same month last year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Four out of five visitors were from the mainland.

The number of mainland visitors jumped 22 per cent to 4.83 million.

That increase was mainly down to the relatively low figures in August 2017, when Typhoon Hato and storm Pakhar swept through the region. Those numbers made last month’s figures stronger comparatively, the board said.