Hong Kong finance chief Paul Chan expects bumper year for tourism and pledges support for sector amid US-China trade war
- Financial secretary says annual visitor arrivals for year will surpass 60 million mark
- Keeping sector growing is too important to be overlooked, Chan says
Hong Kong’s top financial official says the government will work to help the tourism sector keep growing as a major part of its efforts to stabilise the economy to offset the effects of the US-China trade war.
The remarks by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po came as he expected a bumper year for the city’s tourism sector, with the number of visitors set to surpass the 60 million mark and reach an all-time high.
He also said the government could explore easing visa requirements for some countries in the Belt and Road Initiative – China’s global trade strategy – to boost tourism, while also urging the sector to grab the opportunities offered by the Greater Bay Area development to work with neighbouring travel spots to promote multi-destination itineraries.
The Greater Bay Area scheme seeks to develop Hong Kong and Macau with nine cities in Guangdong province into an innovation hub.
In a piece posted on his official blog on Sunday, Chan stressed that the tourism sector accounted for about 4.5 per cent of Hong Kong’s GDP and employed 6.7 per cent of the city’s workforce.
“Under the present uncertain economic outlook triggered by international trade frictions, keeping the sector growing is too important to overlook in our efforts to stabilise the economy,” Chan wrote.
Latest Hong Kong Tourism Board statistics showed that some 5.88 million visitors came to Hong Kong in October, a rise of 11.5 per cent compared with the same month in 2017. Of the arrivals, some 4.65 million, or roughly 80 per cent, were from mainland China. That was up 15.4 per cent from the October 2017 figure.
Hong Kong received a record 60.8 million visitors in 2014. The number dropped slightly to 59.31 million the following year and fell further to 56.66 million in 2016. It bounced back to 58.47 million last year.
“With the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, visitor arrivals for November were expected to further go up. With this trend, it is certain that the annual visitor arrivals for this year will surpass 60 million, breaking the 2014 record,” Chan wrote.
The opening of the sea crossing, however, resulted in an influx of mainland tourists to Tung Chung – the town closed to the bridge checkpoint, triggering protests by local residents.
In his blog piece, Chan said the tourism boom could be “clearly felt” with the opening of the bridge and the cross-border high-speed rail in recent months. He also said the opening of a new control point at Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai next year would further strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a leading destination for tourists.
Chan also promised that the government would improve coordination within departments so as to avoid the daily life of local residents being affected. “Only by doing so, can the [tourism] sector develop in a sustainable manner,” he wrote.
Tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing, however, remained cautious despite a boom in tourist numbers. He said some 55 per cent of the tourists did not stay overnight in Hong Kong and just came for one-day outings. These were mainly mainland tourists, Yiu said.