Visitors rise +12% to 9.7m

By Doug Newhouse |

Last month, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) reported that last year’s visitor arrivals to Hong Kong broke all records and this strong upward trend has continued into the first quarter of 2011. [These figures include air, land and sea arrivals-Ed].

Total tourism expenditure associated with inbound tourism reached a historic high of HK$209.98bn ($26.8bn) in 2010 – some 32.7% more than in 2009. The per capita spending of overnight visitors also surged by 16.6% to HK$6,728 ($865.77), while that of same-day, in-town visitors rose by 2.7% to HK$1,846 ($237.54).

Continuing this trend, visitor arrivals to Hong Kong reached 9,707,971 in the first quarter of 2011, representing a year-on-year growth of 12.6%. As for the month of March, arrivals rose by 13.9% over the previous year to 3,186,871.

All of which is very positive maintaining the momentum of the 2010 results. Last year Hong Kong saw 36.03m visitor arrivals – +21.8% more than 2009. The increase in arrivals, along with the strengthening of most currencies against the Hong Kong dollar, which stimulated visitors’ spending, led to remarkable growth in total tourism expenditure.

This year the HKTB is expecting further growth in arrivals to 39.64m, provided that the global economy remains stable and the Mainland maintains its robust economic growth. 

Another contributory factor could be the implementation of measures to facilitate individual visits by both non-Guangdong and Guangdong residents in Shenzhen. All these are projected to give a further boost to the tourism receipts to around HK$244.40bn ($31.4bn) in 2011.

In 2010, the total spending by overnight visitors amounted to HK$135.14bn ($17.3bn), which represents a significant growth of 38.4% over 2009. As for the per capita spending of overnight visitors, this increased by 16.6% year-on-year to an average of HK$6,728 ($865.76).

The HKTB said: “All market regions achieved remarkable growth in their respective overnight per capita spending figure in 2010, with especially outstanding performances by the long-haul regions, which showed increases of 30% or more. 

“Furthermore, the per capita spending figures of individual long-haul markets were either close to, or above, the average of all overnight visitors. As for the short-haul regions, the per capita spending of overnight visitors from North Asia and from South and Southeast Asia also made an impressive leap of 27.8% and 17.7% respectively.

“Among all overnight visitors, those from Mainland China continued to have the highest per capita spending at HK$7,453 ($959), 12.6% more than in 2009. The higher spending not only reflected the rapid economic growth of the Mainland, which stimulated spending and outbound travel, but also underlined Hong Kong’s position as one of the first-choice destinations among Mainland travellers.”

In 2010, the total spending on shopping by visitors to Hong Kong surged by 33.5% year-on-year to HK$109.59bn ($14bn). For both overnight and same-day visitors, shopping took up the largest share of visitor spending, which stood at 61.7% and 89.4% respectively.

The proportion was even higher for overnight and same-day visitors from Mainland China, which reached 73.6% and 92.2% respectively. Among the overnight Mainland visitors in 2010, 46% purchased ready-made clothing during their stay. Other popular shopping items included cosmetics and skin care (44%), snacks/confectionery (31%), shoes/other footwear (22%), and medicine/Chinese herbs (19%).

Following on from 2010, the Mainland market sustained its growth level in the first three months of this year, registering more than 2m arrivals each month and culminating in a total of 6.5m arrivals – +17.5% on the first quarter of 2010.

Among these, 65.7% – or more than 4.28m – travelled under the Individual Visit Scheme, an increase of 23% over the same period last year. Apart from a greater number of Mainland visitors to Hong Kong for vacation and consumption visits, the HKTB says that the overall growth can be attributed to the steady rise in business visitors from the Mainland, many of who crossed the border for attending MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) events.

In the short-haul markets, quarterly arrivals rose by 3.2% to 1.87m. Specifically, in Japan, while the March 11 earthquake in the Northeast region has generally dampened the travel desire of vacationers in the country, there was only a slight impact on business travel. As a result, overall Japanese arrivals did not show significant drop. 

Meanwhile, the HKTB has already been working with the Japanese travel trade on promotions for attracting consumers in the non-affected areas. In South Korea, outbound tourism remained stable during the first three months of this year. 

Driven by the remarkable growth in vacation visitors, the market noted a 15.2%-increase in quarterly arrivals to Hong Kong. This also helped to bring total arrivals from North Asia (Japan and South Korea) up by 4.8% in the first quarter.

In the Southeast Asian market, there was steadfast growth of 9.1% in arrivals during the first three months of this year. Continuing the growth momentum during the Chinese New Year, family vacationers from Malaysia, Singapore and other markets in the region increased in March, driven by the school holiday. 

In Taiwan, arrivals declined by 5.5% owing to cross-strait direct flights and competitive air ticket prices. Nevertheless, overnight vacation visitors from the island surged by 19.8% in March as a result of the attractively-priced tour packages to Hong Kong launched by the Taiwanese travel trade.

In the long-haul markets, a steady upward trend was observed, with a 2.9%-increase in overall arrivals during the first quarter. The Americas continued to be the best performer, showing growth in every single month and a cumulative increase of 7.8%. Other long-haul markets maintained stable development. 

The HKTB also pointed to emerging market increases in the first quarter. Of these, Russia reaped the greatest growth rate at +50.7%. In March alone, arrivals rose by 59.3%, the highest among the three months, benefitting from the strong increase in the number of vacation travellers. 

The HKTB added: “In India, arrivals grew significantly last year due to active promotion by the HKTB and the travel trade during the past two years. The growth momentum sustained into this year, with arrivals gaining by 5.1% in the first three months. 

“As for the Middle East, while political instability has been affecting the region in recent months, there was no major impact on arrivals, given the HKTB has focused its promotion in the lesser affected United Emirates and Saudi Arabia within the Gulf Cooperation Council region. On the whole, arrivals from the Middle East rose by 6.6% in the first quarter. 

“In March 2011, overnight visitors made up 53.1% of all visitors to Hong Kong (1.69m), or 7.1% more than last year. As for same-day, in-town visitors, these increased by 22.7% to over 1.49m. In the first quarter of 2011, overnight visitors grew by 5.7% year-on-year to 5.11m, or 52.7% of all visitors, whereas same-day visitors rose by 21.3% to 4.58m.”

Mainland China continued to be the primary driver of growth in arrivals to Hong Kong in 2010, with arrivals climbing up by 26.3% year-on-year to 22.68m, and accounting for 63% of total arrivals. Such buoyant performance underlines Hong Kong’s popularity as a travel destination for Mainland travellers.

Across the strait in Taiwan, yearly arrivals grew by 7.7% to over 2.16m, despite continued expansion of cross-strait direct flights. Making use of the spare capacity of the Hong Kong-Taiwan flights, the HKTB collaborated with the travel trade to roll out competitively priced vacation packages and open up new visitor sources in cities other than Taipei. As a result, vacation arrivals from the island went up by 29.0% to 590,000, causing overall Taiwanese arrivals to increase. 

For North Asia, the strong appreciation of the Japanese yen and the Korean won during the year brought forth a 21.1% rise in arrivals from the region. The performance of South Korea was especially outstanding, with double-digit growth recorded for every single month of 2010. 

For the full year, arrivals from the country soared by 44.0% to 890,000. In Japan, the travel trade launched a range of multi-destination travel itineraries featuring Hong Kong, Macau and the Pearl River Delta. Together with myriads of mega events and activities in Hong Kong, these attracted increased visits by Japanese travellers, causing arrivals to grow by 9.3% to 1.31m.

In South and Southeast Asia, the emerging market of India proved to be the best performer, with arrivals up by 44.8% to 530,000. The robust growth was mainly due to increased Hong Kong-India flight capacity, and the joint effort between the HKTB and the local travel trade to cultivate interest in visiting Hong Kong among Indian consumers. Other markets in the region, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, all recorded double-digit growth compared to 2009.

Russia, another key emerging market for the HKTB, saw its 2010 arrivals double that of 2009. The rapid development of the country’s economy and the rise of the middle class have both bolstered outbound tourism, whereas increased direct flights and visa-free arrangements between Hong Kong and Russia also contributed to the phenomenal growth rate. 

Meanwhile, the Middle East enjoyed a 20.7% increase in its arrivals, which exceeded 210,000 in 2010. Catering to the travel patterns of consumers in the region, the HKTB joined hands with the travel trade to promote multi-destination itineraries featuring Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, raising interest in visiting Hong Kong.

The long-haul regions showed steadfast growth in 2010, with arrivals up by 10.5% to 4.69m, surpassing the level in 2008 before the financial crisis broke out. As a result of the economic recovery, business arrivals returned, while vacation arrivals also increased, leading to the overall upward trend of long-haul arrivals.

Total overnight arrivals in 2010 amounted to over 20m, or 55.7% of all arrivals to Hong Kong, 18.7% higher than the number in 2009. All market regions, especially South and Southeast Asia (+21.8%) and Mainland China (+20.8%), showed prominent growth in their overnight arrivals.



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