With this year’s Spring Festival looming on the horizon, Hong Kong’s tourism industry is expecting a huge influx of tourists from mainland China and a further boost to its fortunes after some stunning results in 2010.
According to a provisional report from the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), the city welcomed 36.03 million tourists in 2010 – a year-on-year rise of 21.8 percent.
Of those visitors, 22.47 million came from mainland China, in itself a rise of 27 percent from 2009 and an increase helped by the relaxation of visa restrictions for Chinese people living in the regions that border Hong Kong.
Short-haul visitors – those who made a trip of less than three hours and excluding those who came down from China – made up 8.72 million of the overall figure, while long-haul visitors made up 4.84 million. Those figures accounted for year-on-year rises of 16.5 per cent and 9.6 per cent, respectively.
The world’s most popular tourist destinations for 2010 are still to be officially announced but they’re expected to line up like 2009, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization, when France attracted 74.2 million people, the United States 54.9 million and Spain 52.2 million.
The China Tourism Academy has this week estimated more than 57 million mainland Chinese tourists will travel overseas in 2011 (spending around US$55 billion or €42.5 billion as they do).
And Hong Kong – traditionally the most popular travel destination for mainland Chinese – is hoping to get a lion’s share of the market once again, beginning with the 40-day Spring Festival, set around the Chinese New Year, which in 2011 falls on February 3.
Traditionally, the Spring Festival sees tens of millions of Chinese heading home to spend time with family, but as the country’s growing middle class has picked up more money to spare, more and more are also heading overseas for at least part of their holidays.
And the HKTB is pulling out all the stops to ensure they come to town, heavily promoting its own Chinese New Year Festival, which will run at various venues across town from January 28 to February 14.
“Hong Kong’s tourism experienced a strong rebound in 2010 after the severe blow dealt by the financial tsunami and human swine influenza in 2009,” HKTB chairman James Tien said in a press statement that announced last year’s figures. “The result could be attributed to the collaborative effort between the SAR Government, the local travel trade and the HKTB in rolling out various promotions, such as the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, the Wine and Dine Festival and the New Year Countdown Celebrations, as well as the policies implemented by [China’s] Central Government to facilitate individual visits by mainland residents.
“Looking into 2011, Asia will be the key driver in the global tourism growth. The HKTB will maintain our close partnership with the travel trade to uphold Hong Kong’s image as an international, cosmopolitan city. ”