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Monday, December 28, 2015, 16:12

Cross-border meet soon to help revive tourism

By Timothy Chui & Su Zhou /

Cross-border meet soon to help revive tourism
In this picture taken on Aug 28, 2012, tourists from the Chinese mainland take pictures during a visit to Hong Kong. (AFP P HOTO / Philippe Lopez)

HONG KONG - Tourism officials on either side of the Shenzhen river will be holding high level talks in Hong Kong where tours and retail shop owners saw frosty sales.

Further trouble lies ahead with the outlook for mainland visitors coming to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year Holidays remaining bleak, Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung said.

Delegates from the Guangdong Province Tourism Bureau will be meeting their Hong Kong peers later this week to agree on a raft of measures to reignite interest in Hong Kong as a tourist attraction as the start of the holiday season failed to arrest a slide in the number of tours bound for the Special Administrative Region.

The measures are expected to be announced before the start of the New Year, Tung said.

Hong Kong is no londer among the top 10 tour destinations of mainland travellers, according to Ctrip Public Affairs manager Yan Xin.

The most popular overseas destinations for mainland travelers during the holiday season from Christmas to the New Year proved to be Seoul, Bangkok, Chinese Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, Washington DC, Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, Phuket Island and Sydney.

Christmas season tour groups were nearly half the annual average with as few as 200 tour groups entering Hong Kong on a daily basis.

"We’ve seen very low levels in the past two weeks and there hasn’t been any noticeable uptake due to the festival season,” Tung said.

A fast growing tourist market on the mainland has seen travellers opting for trips to neighboring countries in north Asia, drawn by cheaper local currencies and relaxed visa protocols.

The worrying trend has Tung’s Council refocusing its efforts on attracting more visitors from Guangdong province’s major cities, to help staunch an outflow of visitors and tourist dollars.

Chairman of Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy Lau Oi-kwok said business at pharmacies - normally an essential stop in any mainland visitor itinerary - was down 30 percent.

Already one fifth of pharmacies relying largely on mainland visitors for revenue have closed shop in the last year, Lau said, noting many were no longer able to keep up with rents ranging around HK$200,000 a month.

A boon in online sales and duty free zones on the mainland have also come at the expense of Hong Kong-based pharmacies, Lau added, forecasting further declines in lieu of intervention.

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