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Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 09:13

HK seeks fewer mainland visitors

By Su Zhou
 HK seeks fewer mainland visitors
This picture taken on Jan20, 2014 shows Chinese tourists (L) queuing for taxis in front of a luxury hotel in a popular shopping district in Hong Kong. (AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez)

While the number of Chinese mainland visitors to Hong Kong fell for the first time in 20 years over the Spring Festival holiday, the government in the special administrative region wants to cut it back even further.

Speaking before the start of an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the individual visit program involving 49 mainland cities should not be expanded but tightened up.

"I have been advising the central government not to expand the scheme, as Hong Kong's capacity to receive tourists is limited," Leung said, adding that the subject will be discussed in the coming "two sessions".

The drop, though a slight 0.3 percent over the first three days of the festival, is the first holiday decrease in about two decades, according to Reuters, quoting an industry group.

The Chinese mainland leads the world in outbound tourism, with more than 100 million people traveling overseas in 2014. Of those, 40 million visited Hong Kong.

Ip Kwok-him, a delegate to the National People's Congress from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the number of visitors to Hong Kong has grown fast, which has aided the development of tourism and retail industries and created job opportunities, thanks to the multi-entry permit under the current individual travel scheme.

However, Ip said, growth in visits from the mainland had also put pressure on ports, tourism facilities and even local people's livelihoods. And so tourists sometimes do not enjoy quality service.

Shi Wenjing, a financial auditor in Shanghai, said a tighter travel control policy would create a gap between the mainland and Hong Kong that would be good for neither.

"When the whole world is trying to attract mainland tourists to visit their countries by loosening visa requirements, it is ridiculous to hear that Hong Kong, which is part of our own country, is trying to push mainland visitors outside," Shi said.

Wei Xiao'an, secretary-general of the China Tourism Leisure Association, was skeptical about any tightening of visitation.

"Hong Kong, along with Macao and Taiwan, has long been a popular destination for Chinese mainland tourists and shoppers because of the short flight, familiar language and cheap price of goods," said Wei. "So it is an irresistible trend."

"The limited capacity theory is not that convincing," Wei said. "When someplace is overwhelmed by visitors, other visitors go somewhere else. The number of tourists should be adjusted by the market, not government policies."

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