Pull up your socks, tourism chiefs tell HK
Updated: 2015-03-26 07:22
By Gladdy Chu in Hong Kong(HK Edition)
Travel industry experts warn there won't be enough tourists from other sources to make up for the loss from declining mainland tourist arrivals if some Hong Kong people's senseless and hostile attitude toward mainland visitors continues. Edmond Tang / China Daily
Tourism sector will not fade, but more promotion efforts are needed: Experts
Hong Kong's tourism industry is here to stay, and reports of its demise may have been grossly exaggerated, says the head of one of the city's largest tourist agencies.
Xu Muhan, executive director of China Travel International Investment Hong Kong, said on Wednesday that, compared with the general economic development trend, human factors only have a limited impact on regional tourism within a finite time and space.
The company, which has been expanding it regional tourism operations, posted a profit attributable to shareholders of HK$1.74 billion for last year - up 51 percent from 2013 - on a 9-percent rise in turnover to HK$4.48 billion. It declared a final dividend of two Hong Kong cents.
Addressing industry-wide concerns over the decline in the number of mainland visitors, who made up about 80 percent of all tourist arrivals, Xu said Hong Kong could try to make up by further exploring market potential by attracting more international travelers, including those from Southeast Asia.
But such sobering advice from him and others would likely fall on deaf ears as the tourism industry appears to have become obsessed with self-pity.
According to statistics from the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, tourist arrivals from the mainland individual travelers market surged by only 3.3 percent in January this year, compared with a 23.3-percent jump during the same period last year.
Mainland tour groups to Hong Kong plunged 32.3 percent last month, compared with a 21.6-percent increase in February last year. The magnitude of the decline, though largely seasonal, has upset many stakeholders in the local tourism market, such as hoteliers, caterers, retailers and tourist agencies. They found the protests in the past few months particularly rueful because they were seen to be directed at mainland visitors.
Lam Chi-ting, general secretary of the Federation of Hong Kong Trade Unions in Tourism, said that due to the three-month "Occupy Central" demonstrations and the frequent protests against parallel traders in Hong Kong, the local tourism industry has lost its drive.
"We cannot see any alternative engine to drive the growth of the local tourism industry in future years," he said.
Adding to the woes is growing competition from Japan and Europe as tourist destinations, fueled by a steep depreciation of the Japanese yen and the euro against most major world currencies.
Lam believes that the government's efforts to mount a global promotion of Hong Kong as a tourist destination will not be of much help. "More than half of the Hong Kong Tourism Board's expenses have been put into promoting Hong Kong to overseas travelers annually. But, the effect is quite limited."
Lam also warned that with the scheduled opening of Shanghai Disneyland next year, Hong Kong will further lose its charm as a tourist destination for visitors from the Pearl River Delta.
However, he said Hong Kong remains attractive to mainland shoppers and those who have not been here. "But those senseless and hostile protests must stop or mainland tourists won't come. And, there won't be enough tourists from other sources to make up for the loss."
(HK Edition 03/26/2015 page8)