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'Golden week' glitters less in HK this year
Publication Date : 06-05-2014
Hong Kong got fewer mainland visitors during the May Day holiday this year, and industry players say the special administrative region's luster was dimmed by recent protests held to stem such visits.
"Needless to say, the dispute between locals and mainland tourists tolled a bell," said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's Immigration Department reported that 388,070 mainland visitors arrived in the city from May 1 to May 3, a slight decline from the same period last year. In 2013, the holiday, which ran April 29 to May 1, brought 394,476 mainland tourists to Hong Kong.
On the first day of the three-day holiday this year, 142,505 mainland tourists arrived, indicating an 11.88 per cent slide compared with 161,721 mainland visitors last year.
"This is the first time we have experienced such a decline during the 'golden week'. This clearly is an exclamation mark to us all," Tung said. "As some Hong Kong people are being very unfriendly, it's not hard to imagine why so many mainland tourists bypassed Hong Kong this time."
He pointed to a widely shared online video clip showing a fight between several Hong Kong locals and a mainland couple whose toddler urinated in public in Mong Kok, a crowded shopping district, on April 15.
The video drew over 1 million re-posts on Sina Weibo, the most active social network on the mainland. It also started a shouting match between netizens on both sides of the border. While voices on the mainland called for a boycott of the city, some Hong Kong residents then staged "anti-locust" protests.
"Of course it spoils the shopping mood. But I think it's unfair to blame the decline of mainland tourists totally on local radicals," said Wong Wai-cheung, chairman and chief executive of Luk Fook Holdings (International) Ltd, a large jewellery chain in Hong Kong.
Wong stressed that other factors, such as the downtrend of China's economy, the government austerity campaign and even anti-pornography actions taken in Dongguan, Guangdong province, played roles in decreasing sales.
Luk Fook saw same-store sales drop by as much as 10 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2014, which Wong attributed to the fluctuating price of gold once the top item on mainland tourists' shopping list. "As the comparison base is high, this April won't be any better," he warned.
"Golden week used to be the big thing of a year when it was rolled out a decade ago," Wong said. "But now it has been normalised fewer people are visiting Hong Kong during the holiday. Holiday sales are only 40 to 50 per cent higher than average days."
That was echoed by a spokesperson for Chow Tai Fook, another major jewellery store in town. "The golden week effect has faded in the recent years. Nowadays, mainland tourists tend to visit regularly. From May 1 to 4 this year, sales in our chain were similar to that of ordinary weekends. And it is in line with what we expected."
But the Travel Industry Council's Tung said the greatest loss is the erosion of high-end visitors.
"In the recent years, we have witnessed more and more mainlanders turning to Europe and the US to buy luxury goods, because money-wise, our edge is declining. People can get branded handbags and shoes at bigger discounts in the countries of origin. Now, even fewer will come as mainland tourists discover Hong Kong treats them without respect. And they have plenty of other choices," he said.
Tung said he is worried that such behaviour will cast a pall over Hong Kong's image to the whole world.
"Hong Kong is known as a friendly city worldwide. However, excessive actions targeting mainland tourists may also deter visitors from other countries. That will put Hong Kong in an even worse position," Tung said.