Published: 13:07, May 14, 2024 | Updated: 16:45, May 14, 2024
HK eyes HK$1.5b spending by tourists from 8 mainland cities
By Wang Zhan
Mainland visitors tour around the Former Yau Ma Tei Police Station in Hong Kong on May 2, 2024. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – A new measure allowing residents from eight more Chinese mainland cities to visit Hong Kong is expected to bring about 300,000 tourists, generating a HK$1.2 billion-HK$1.5 billion ($154 million-$192 million) spending annually, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday.

Expressing his gratitude to the central government for accepting the special administrative region government’s suggestions, he said the measure carried “multiple meanings” as the central authorities had expanded the individual visitor scheme for the second time in three months.

Lee was speaking to the media ahead of a weekly Executive Council meeting.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu believes the measure allowing residents from eight more Chinese mainland cities to visit Hong Kong will give a fresh impetus to the city’s economy as “the individual visitor scheme is the main source of tourists, accounting for 60 percent of the total number of mainland visitors last year”

Under the updated arrangements, eligible residents from the eight cities will be able to apply for individual-visit endorsements to visit Hong Kong and Macao SARs starting May 27. The cities are: Taiyuan in Shanxi province; Harbin in Heilongjiang; Lanzhou in Gansu; Xining in Qinghai; Yinchuan in Ningxia Hui autonomous region; Hohhot in Inner Mongolia; Lhasa in Xizang and Urumqi in Xinjiang.

The latest additions have increased the total number of mainland cities under the scheme to 59, following the inclusion of Qingdao, Shandong province, and Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in early March.

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The CE believes the measure will give a fresh impetus to the city’s economy as “the individual visitor scheme is the main source of tourists, accounting for 60 percent of the total number of mainland visitors last year”.

The expansion of the scheme has also covered capitals of all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions to further attract more mainland tourists to the SAR, Lee said.

In April, about 2.5 million mainland tourists traveled to the SAR, posting a year-on-year increase of 7.8 percent, while the figure for the the first four months of 2024 reached 11.2 million, registering a rise of 97.3 percent compared with 2023, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

The eight cities were all provincial capitals with large population, high economic growth and high-spending power, he said, adding that there were approximately 33 million people, with the GDP reaching 2.8 trillion yuan ($387 billion) last year.

The increase in the GDP in five cities' provinces and autonomous regions was ranked the first six in the nation, he added.

Lee expects the new measure will bring in more overnight visitors, as the eight cities are located in the northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of the mainland and the SAR is far away from the regions, and this will help boost the revenue in tourism and other related sectors.

The residents could help support the SAR’s catering, hotel and tourism industries and bring more economic benefits, he added.

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People shop in a second-hand camera shop in Hong Kong on May 2, 2024. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

HK$200 coupon

To attract individual tourists from the eight cities, the Hong Kong Tourism Board will distribute HK$200 coupons to be used in various local venues, the CE said, adding that the board will invite the local tourism representatives and media outlets to Hong Kong and showcase the city’s characteristics.

To attract individual tourists from the eight cities, the Hong Kong Tourism Board will distribute HK$200 coupons to be used in various local venues, the CE said, adding that the board will invite the local tourism representatives and media outlets to Hong Kong and showcase the city’s characteristics

The HKTB will also take advantages of social media platforms, tourism representatives and airlines to promote in-depth tourism and other special features, including cultural and green heritage, he said.

To enhance the role as a tourist-friendly city, the Transport and Logistics Bureau and the Airport Authority Hong Kong will encourage airlines to enhance flight services between the eight cities and the SAR, with four of them already having direct flights with the SAR, he said, adding that some airlines plannned to establish flight services to and from Harbin next month and increase the number of flights to and from Urumqi.

The bureau will also closely monitor tourists’ preferences for the modes of transport with the MTR and other public transport operators and ensure the sufficient capability of the high-speed railway and local transportation for the sake of tourists’ experience and convenience.

Asked about the performance of a drone show and pyrotechnic display this month, he said the pyrotecnic display was as impressive as expected due to the weather conditions, while the drone show had received positive feedbacks from tourists. 

The authorities will take the weather into consideration and draw on this experience in promoting different activities for both local residents and visitors, he aded.

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Regarding the principle “anywhere in Hong Kong can serve a tourist spot” proposed by Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, the CE said the authorities had been promoting in-depth tourism and developed new tourism products in light of new situations.

He appealed to various sectors to be more proactive so that the city could be a capital of hospitality.

Lee also stressed the government will continue to promote mega events and tap more business opportunities, with the Chinese Culture Festival and the International Boast Festival next month, the Book Fair in July and the Wine and Dine Festival in October.

The authorities will announce a list of mega events for the second half of the year soon, he added.

Reform at social work body

Asked about a proposed reform at the Social Workers Registration Board to increase the proportion of apppointed members, the CE expressed his support for any measure to ratify problems in the system and said he was confident that the Labour and Welfare Bureasu could handle the matter.