Tourism industry leaders on Thursday said Hong Kong still holds a strong appeal for mainland tourists, as the special administrative region welcomed over 625,000 tourists from the mainland over the just-concluded five-day May Day holiday.
A total of 1.7 million people entered the city during the five-day break — the first long break since the Chinese mainland resumed regular travel with Hong Kong — which fell between April 29 and May 3 this year. Among them, 37 percent or 625,000 were tourists from the mainland, according to the Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.
This is a stark contrast to last year's May Day holiday when COVID-19 restrictions were in place, during which only around 30,000 visitors entered and exited Hong Kong, with over 90 percent being local residents and only 1,641 mainland tourists.
Before the pandemic, the city received about 1 million tourists from the mainland, along with another 1.08 million tourists from other places during a four-day May Day break in 2019.
Though the figure has not fully returned to the pre-COVID days, industry stakeholders are optimistic about the rebound of the city economy, as a result of a surge in mainland tourists.
Chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Retail and Wholesale Shum Chu-wah said mainland tourists played a vital role in promoting the city's economic recovery and the development of various industries, particularly retail.
Shum said the retail and wholesale volume in Hong Kong over the five-day break increased by 30 to 40 percent compared to previous years, and the consumption by mainland tourists accounted for 70 to 80 percent of the total retail sales.
Timothy Chui Ting-pong, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, said the influx of visitors to Hong Kong clearly indicates that the city, including its unique culture and spirit, still holds a strong appeal for mainland tourists.
The resurgence of Hong Kong's tourism industry has had a direct and positive impact on several key sectors, including transport, food and beverage, and hotels, which provided a much-needed boost to the city's businesses, Chui noted, expecting the city's tourism industry to explode again this summer and in the second half of the year.
Chui attributed the remarkable recovery in part to the government's promotional policies, which have played a critical role in driving tourism growth in the city.
According to Perry Yiu Pak-leung, a lawmaker representing the tourism sector, this year's holiday season has shown a notable shift in the consumption patterns of some mainland tourists. Rather than solely focusing on shopping and dining, these tourists are branching out by seeking new experiences such as hiking, camping trips and cultural city walks. This trend indicates that Hong Kong's tourism industry is becoming increasingly diverse.
To ensure the steady development of the industry, Yiu suggested that the government should organize large-scale events such as cultural and sports events, and international conferences in an orderly manner. This approach would prevent large ups and downs in tourism numbers, promoting sustained growth in the industry and enhancing Hong Kong's position as a leading tourism destination.
Mainland tourist Kinty Xiao Qunqing, 28, said she spent three action-packed days in Hong Kong during the holiday, hitting up a range of popular attractions, including Victoria Peak, M+ Museum, Disneyland Resort and Tai Kwun, a cultural and heritage complex located in Central.
Xiao said the streets were teeming with people, and lines for the attractions were long. She waited for three hours just to board the cable car to the Peak, while at Disney there were more than tens of thousands of people gathered for the fireworks show at night.
Xiao noted that despite the crowds, she felt that the festive atmosphere and lively energy made the trip well worth it.