Weak Hong Kong dollar boosts tourist numbers


The weaker Hong Kong dollar encouraged more visitors from the mainland and other Asian markets last year, Tourism Board chairman James Tien Pei- chun said yesterday.

According to the board, the number of visitors increased by 22 percent to 36 million with each tourist spending an average of HK$6,705, an increase of 16.2 percent on 2009.

Expenditure related to inbound tourism contributed HK$212.6 billion to the economy, a rise of 30.5 percent.

Tien said Hong Kong will continue to be a desired tourist destination and that the number of visitors in 2011 could increase to 39 million.

The mainland remains Hong Kong’s largest source of tourists, according to a report to be presented to the Legislative Council’s economic development panel next week.

The board says mainland visitors constitute 60 percent of all travelers to Hong Kong.

Arrivals from the mainland in 2010 increased by 26.3 percent compared with the previous year.

The report also shows that visitors from other Asian markets such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea increased by 7.7 percent, 9.3 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Tien said the strengthening of the yuan and other Asian currencies against the US dollar played a major role in making Hong Kong a top destination.

For the Taiwan market, the report said more promotions were conducted last year to fill empty seats on Hong Kong-Taiwan flights following the increased number of cross-strait direct flights between Taipei and the mainland.

Tien declined to reveal the subsidy amount to be allocated to the tourism body for this year, saying it has yet to be approved by the government.

However, a spokeswoman said later the budget for 2011-2012 is expected to be slightly higher than the HK$501 million the board received for 2010-2011.

During yesterday’s press conference, Tien said one of the board’s priorities will be to invest funds to explore potential new markets such as Vietnam and the Netherlands.

Tien also said in view of the construction of the Kai Tak cruise terminal, the board will endeavor to generate demand for cruises by partnering with cruise operators and travel agencies.

More effort will also be made to include Hong Kong in television shows overseas as part of the board’s publicity program. Last year, Hong Kong was featured in a number of reality shows in South Korea and the United States.

The board also plans an overhaul for its discoverhongkong.com website.

Tien added that another way to attract more tourists is to promote Hong Kong festivals. A lantern festival will be held in September for the Mid- Autumn Festival while events will also be held in conjunction with other Chinese festivals.