Hong Kong has always been a favourable destination for Mainland shoppers. The situation, however, has changed.
According to the latest statistics from the Immigration Department, the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year holidays recorded a drop of 0.16% this year.
Individual visits from the mainland to Hong Kong fell by about 5%, while the number of package tour groups also decreased by about 20% compared to the same period last year, said Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
It is the first decline in nearly 20 years since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997.
This may attribute to intensifying tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland in recent years as the locals accuse visitors from the north of snapping up local resources from daily essentials such as infant milk formula to public services and residential property.
Conflicts have heated up with several protests took place across Hong Kong before and after the Lunar New Year. Local residents blame the multiple-entry arrangement has encouraged the activities of grey-market traders from mainland that has significantly affected their livelihoods.
Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung therefore said the Hong Kong government will discuss with mainland authorities to tighten up the individual visit scheme for mainland tourists, citing Hong Kong’s limited capacity to accommodate tourists.
Continued disputes between Hongkongers and Mainland Chinese, like the scenes around the streets of Yuen Long yesterday, may have an effect, but this may not the main reason for the decrease of tourists to Hong Kong.
Overwhelmed with choices
With a robust economy and improved living standards, going travel is becoming more affordable and important for Chinese people.
According to a survey conducted by CLSA, an independent brokerage and investment group, 64% out of 1,000 Chinese respondents are interested in travelling overseas in the next 12 months and 67% intend to increase their travel budget.
The group estimates that the number of outbound mainland tourists will double to 200 million and tourist spend will triple by 2020.
Apart from sightseeing and experiencing exotic cultures, shopping is also an important reason for the Chinese to go travel, especially having concerns over food safety and product safety problems in China.
Spending on luxury goods will continue to stay high as CLSA expects demand for luxury goods from Greater China will account for 50% of the total luxury goods market by 2020.
While amid the recent anti-corruption campaign, the number of overseas trips made by Chinese tourists during Chinese New Year still climbed to reach 5.2 million, with a year-on-year growth of 10%, China National Tourism Administration said.
CLSA, however, predicts the arrivals to Hong Kong will decrease as the city’s accommodation capacity has reached a boundary point with a shortage of tourism infrastructure as well as unwelcoming attitude and stronger competitions.
Chinese travellers now have more choices. As one of the fast-growing outbound travel markets globally, countries and regions are making every effort to get a piece of this lucrative market by providing unique offerings to cater the needs of these wealthy tourists.
A number of countries have lifted their visa regulations to pull in more visitors from China, including Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the United States.
Hotels in Spain are catching up with the trend by changing their menus, streaming Chinese TV programmes and providing Chinese language services.
The hotel industry in the United States is doing its part to appeal the Chinese by providing special training for staff, injecting Chinese elements in their room designs and menus, and organising a series of activities during Chinese New Year.
China National Tourism Administration said with visa relaxation and better exchange rates, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia will remain the most preferred destinations by Chinese visitors, and more citizens are taking a long-distance trip to Europe, Australia and the United States.
To consolidate its status as a top travel destination, Hong Kong has to strike a balance in all aspects, increasing its accommodation capacity and tourist attractions as well as maintaining the quality of life of Hong Kong residents.