Guangdong extends a helping hand

Updated: 2015-12-29 08:01

By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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 Guangdong extends a helping hand

Visitors on their shopping rounds in Causeway Bay on Monday. The outlook for mainland tourist arrivals during the Lunar New Year holidays remains bleak, with Hong Kong no longer among their top 10 travel destinations. Roy Liu / China Daily

Tourism officials on either side of the Shenzhen River are slated to hold high-level talks in Hong Kong, even as tour agencies and retail shop owners in the SAR struggle with frosty sales.

Further trouble lies ahead for the sector, said the executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, Joseph Tung Yao-chung, warning that the outlook for mainland visitors to Hong Kong for the Lunar New Year holidays remain bleak.

Delegates from the Guangdong province tourism administration will be meeting their Hong Kong peers later this week to agree on a raft of measures to reignite interest in the SAR as a tourist attraction. That comes as the start of the Christmas holiday season failed to arrest a slide in the number of tours bound for Hong Kong.

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

Hong Kong is no longer among the top 10 tour destinations of mainland travelers, according to public affairs manager Yan Xin at mainland-focused agency Ctrip.

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

Arriving Christmas 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 festive season," Tung said.

A fast-growing tourist market on the mainland has seen travelers opting for trips to neighboring countries in 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's major cities, to help stanch an outflow of visitors and tourist dollars.

Lau Oi-kwok, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy, said business at pharmacies - normally an essential stop on any mainland visitor's itinerary - was down 30 percent.

Already a fifth of pharmacies that relied largely on mainland visitors for revenue have closed 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 boom 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 if something is not done about the problem.

(HK Edition 12/29/2015 page7)