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SAR residents flock north for Christmas

By Atlas Shao in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-28 09:51
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Hong Kong residents took advantage of the recent Christmas holiday to travel to the Chinese mainland, with passenger traffic departing the special administrative region significantly surpassing the number flowing into the SAR.

From Saturday to Tuesday, over 1.34 million crossings were made by Hong Kong residents to the mainland at the 10 land borders, while about 383,000 mainland visitors arrived in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong residents and industry insiders said that cost-effective and attentive services have enhanced the competitiveness of mainland tourism. They called on Hong Kong to adopt multiple approaches to improve the experience of inbound tourists.

Hong Kong resident Vanessa Chan enjoyed what she described as a "journey of taste" by spending a four-day holiday in Guangzhou, Shunde and Zhongshan in Guangdong province.

Chan said that most people in Hong Kong had celebrated Christmas in the city for three straight years due to COVID-19, so many people opted for travel this year.

Chelsea Fu went to Shenzhen for three days during the holiday, with the main aim to have a relaxing time.

"Consumption in Shenzhen is relatively cheaper, and the hotels normally have a more comfortable environment. I can also have more choices for food, and watch some mainland movies," Fu said. She spent about 4,000 yuan ($560) for the trip, and expected it would cost at least double for the same level of activities in Hong Kong.

Liz Cheong, who is in her 20s, said that she is on a seven-day trip in Zhejiang province and Shanghai for eating, shopping and sightseeing.

"Previously, Christmas in Hong Kong was attractive, but it's too crowded, and the gap with the mainland is increasingly getting smaller," Cheong said.

Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, pointed out that with the growing competitiveness of the tourism industry in mainland cities, Hong Kong has to be more proactive.

Leung said that in the future, not only short-haul destinations such as Shenzhen, but mid-haul and long-haul destinations such as Shanghai, Suzhou, Ningxia and Xinjiang will also become more attractive to Hong Kong residents.

Peter Shiu Ka-fai, a lawmaker in the wholesale and retail sector, said that Hong Kong's retail market had an ordinary performance over Christmas, adding that the city's tourism industry has not fully recovered from the pandemic. For example, the jewelry industry previously predicted that this year's business turnover would increase by about 10 percent, but the number has remained the same as last year.

He encouraged the government and tourism sectors to make greater efforts in treating tourists and making them feel like "coming back to their own place".

He also hoped that the HKSAR government's scheme of introducing overseas workers would ease the city's acute manpower shortage in tourism-related sectors, and the prices of Hong Kong hotels and flights can be further dropped to attract more tourists.

On Wednesday, the operator of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-Speed Rail's Hong Kong section announced that it will enhance its short-distance train service from Jan 10.

The frequency of trains to and from West Kowloon Station and Futian Station will be increased from 74 to 98 per day. It will also extend the departure time of the last train on some short-haul routes.

Carley Xu contributed to this story.

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