Hong Kong tries to attract Chinese tourists

(Hong Kong) Queues were modest on Wednesday at the arrival hall of Lo Wu station, on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China, while previously on 1er May there was a huge crowd of Chinese visitors whose spending spree has always been vital to the city’s economy.

After three years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preceded by a year of heated pro-democracy protests, Hong Kong has lost part of its appeal for Chinese tourists, not to mention competition from cities in full swing. growth of mainland China which capture part of the tourist windfall, observers note.

Local authorities hoped that a million visitors would cross the border on 1er May, which marks the start of the “golden week”, a crucial period for the tourism sector and trade in Hong Kong, but the influx of tourists from mainland China was moderate on Wednesday.

“Hong Kong is much more expensive than before,” said a 54-year-old technician who gave his name as Leung and who was planning to visit theme parks with his children. “In terms of value for money, Hong Kong is not that competitive,” he notes.

While Leung plans to stay three days in Hong Kong, many visitors say they will settle for a day, a more affordable option.

Hong Kong is desperately trying to revive the tourism sector, which previously accounted for some 5% of GDP, to catch up after the pandemic and political unrest of recent years.

But experts say Hong Kong is struggling to catch up as visitors spend less amid slowing economic growth in China and Hong Kongers prefer to spend their holidays in neighboring Chinese cities.

“After the pandemic, travel trends and people’s interests have changed, but we are lagging behind when it comes to discovering and promoting exclusive local attractions,” Perry Yiu told AFP. deputy responsible for the city’s tourism sector.

Too expensive

After three lost years for tourism, Hong Kong welcomed around 34 million visitors in 2023, but this figure is far from the peak of more than 65 million visitors who in 2018 spent a total of some $35 billion.

More worryingly, official figures showed a 73.5% drop in spending by single-day visitors from mainland China, statistically the largest group of tourists.

Xu Dengkai, a computer scientist from Shanghai, visiting Hong Kong for the first time on Wednesday, will not stay another day. “It’s not particularly attractive to me, it looks like Shanghai,” he told AFP.

Jason Wong, former chairman of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, said the city has “a lot of work to do” to come up with unique offerings to attract visitors.

Visitors now want other experiences, “because they can shop on the mainland or online instead of relying on Hong Kong,” he told AFP.

The Hong Kong dollar, pegged to the US dollar, high prices, and competition from rivals like Singapore and Japan have contributed to this disaffection, according to Mr Wong.

Declining appeal

Even for its residents, Hong Kong no longer has the same appeal.

Since China reopened its borders in February 2023, Hong Kongers have flocked to neighboring mainland cities like Shenzhen and Zhuhai for their weekend outings.

At the end of March, daily departures exceeded the figure of 760,000, or three times the number of arrivals.

Ryan, 35, a funeral home worker, travels to the continent every week for “more fun for the same amount of money”, and assures that he is far from being the only one.

The drop in consumption has led to a wave of store and restaurant closures.

A Facebook group compiling information on business closures saw the number of its members reach more than 350,000 in a few weeks.

Asked about these closures, Hong Kong leader John Lee on Tuesday dismissed the explanation of an economic slump and spoke of “changes that would inevitably have taken place as part of our economic transformation.”

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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