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Monday, May 4, 2015, 08:59

Last-minute deals draw mainland visitors

By  Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Defying earlier gloomy forecast, Hong Kong received 15 percent more mainland tourists on the first two days of the Labor Day long weekend than a year earlier.

But tourism industry leaders said that the pleasant surprise did not necessarily suggest a turnaround of the sector that is troubled by the uncertain outlook of the regional economy and heighten competition from neighboring destinations.

Official figures showed that a total of 331,069 mainland visitors arrived in Hong Kong on May 1 and 2, up 15.1 percent from a year earlier period.

Some reports suggested that the increase was driven by a surge in transit travelers. But official statistics indicate otherwise. While Hong Kong took in 43,405 more mainland visitors compared to last year, there were only 4,955 more mainland residents flying out of the airport, figures show.

Travel Industry Council Chairman Michael Wu Siu-ying told China Daily that the city’s hotels reported an average occupancy rate of above 90 percent in the past few days.

On the retail front, Landmark North mall in Sheung Shui took in 620,000 visitors on the past three days, a 10 percent increase from the year earlier. Combined turnover of all outlets at the mall amounted to HK$522.2 million, 12 percent higher than the Labor Day weekend in 2014.

But Wu noted that the better performance this year was helped by the three-day holiday this year while Labor Day in 2014 fell on Thursday.

Wu also said that hotels had seen an unusual rush of last-minute bookings in the few days leading up to the long weekend to take advantage of the rate discounts. “That was quite exactly what we feared most,” he said, adding that many Guangdong residents only visited Hong Kong after they found that air tickets to other destinations were sold out.

Lawrence Ma Yung-yi, president of the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, said jewelry shops in Hong Kong generally experienced 10 to 20 percent drop in business from 2014.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, said that despite a slight improvement in business toward the end of the holiday, the catering sector still suffered a 5-percent drop in turnover over the three-day period.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung said on Saturday that it was difficult to make a meaningful assessment of the situation with the initial figures.
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