The mainland Chinese tourists visiting Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai for just 50 yuan each
- Sightseeing-and-shopping trips, sponsored by major companies, are increasingly popular
- But disruption causes anger in the areas they visit
Qin Zhihong, 50, was on his tenth tour to Hong Kong in the past five years.
The Henan province native paid just 50 yuan (US$7) for a five-day trip to the city, as well as Zhuhai and Macau. The mainland Chinese insurance company he uses covered the remaining cost for him and more than 200 other clients and staff on the same tour.
On Saturday, their tour made it to To Kwa Wan, a Kowloon neighbourhood over which local politicians raised the alarm during the festive holidays, after as many as 10,000 mainland tourists descended on it in a day.
The travel industry has noted a growing trend for mainland companies organising the sponsored trips to the city. But the influx could be difficult to monitor if the tours are managed by travel agencies in the city.
Many To Kwa Wan residents are unhappy that their daily lives are affected, with coaches jamming the roads and tourists crowding restaurants. But for jewellery and souvenir shops in the district, business is good. The government on Thursday pledged to take action over the disruption.
Qin said he had prepared a budget of 50,000 yuan for the trip and had spent more than 30,000 yuan already in the area, where he and his fellow travellers had been taken to shop from 7am to noon.
“I bought necklaces, bracelets and a diamond ring which cost about 20,000 yuan for my wife, and an 8,800 yuan branded watch for myself,” Qin said.
He said that each time he came to Hong Kong the itinerary was mostly shopping.
“During all those tours, there were not many sightseeing activities, while too much time was spent in shops,” he said. “Even for shopping, it was all jewellery, watches and electronics. There were no other things for us to buy.”
His tour had started in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Thursday. They visited Hong Kong’s Wong Tai Sin Temple, Ocean Park and Repulse Bay the following day, before Saturday’s shopping trip. They were scheduled to depart for Macau after shopping, returning to Zhuhai on Sunday.
Qin said he would do it again, because of the low cost.
Another traveller, Wang Yinhu, 44 and from Gansu province, paid 580 yuan for a five-day tour of the three southern cities. His company covered the rest of the cost.
He and his 300 colleagues waited at the Ma Tau Kok public pier at about 5pm on Saturday for a ferry ride around Victoria Harbour. The tour also included a day of shopping.
According to the Travel Industry Council, 63,863 mainland tours visited the city from January to November this year, a drop of 6.7 per cent from same period last year.
But the number did not cover all the mainland tours to the city. The council’s executive director, Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, noted that the number of company-sponsored tours from the mainland to Hong Kong had risen since about three years ago, but said only those organised by mainland agencies would need to register with the council.
It would be hard to regulate the influx, she said, because the council cannot control how mainland visitors travel.
“The biggest concern is some of the tours go to To Kwa Wan and affect residents, so we are thinking about how to manage passenger flow through the shops,” she said.
She suggested the shops deploy staff to manage queues outside stores, and communicate with coach drivers to manage crowds.