Hong Kong saw 10m tourists in first five months of this year, but top tourism official warns of labor shortage, lack of flights could hamper recovery

In the first five months of this year, more than 10 million tourists arrived in Hong Kong, accounting for 40% of the pre-epidemic level, but still higher than the pre-epidemic level travel Officials have warned that labor shortages and insufficient flight capacity could hamper the recovery for the rest of the year.

Zheng Ding, executive director of the tourism bureau, said on Friday that the increase in tourist numbers was mainly driven by tourists from mainland China and Southeast Asia, whose numbers had recovered to more than 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

U.S. tourist numbers recovered to 45% of pre-pandemic levels and EU tourist numbers to 36%, driven mostly by business or essential travel.

More than half of tourists in February stayed an average of 4.3 nights in the city, while those who visited between March and April stayed an average of 3.6 nights, surpassing the pre-pandemic figure of 3.2 nights.

The number of tourists visiting Hong Kong has recovered to 40% of the pre-epidemic level.Photo: Junjie Zeng
Cheng said more and more mainland tourists chose High speed train Between March and April, 20% chose to take the train service into the city, up from 10% before the pandemic.

Fewer mainlanders are arriving in the city by air or land.

“I’m worried about the speed of recovery of aviation capacity. If we have more flights, will more mainland tourists come to Hong Kong? golden week‘ rest? He was referring to China’s five-day National Day holiday.
Hong Kong Flagship Airline Cathay Pacific In March, Singapore Airlines’ flight capacity was only about 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity, and it aims to return to 70% by the end of this year and fully recover by 2024. Meanwhile, rival Singapore Airlines is operating at 79% of its pre-pandemic capacity. – Corona virus infection levels in the same month, with 58% of services resumed by Asia Pacific’s 40 airlines with international routes.
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Increased demand and tight capacity have led to higher airfares and hotel costs.

“As the authorities bring in more labor, price increases will gradually ease,” Cheng said.

With long-term accommodation contracts yet to expire, 30% of hotel rooms in Hong Kong are still occupied by local residents, up from 12% before the pandemic.

Cheng estimated that only 70% of the city’s hotel rooms were available for booking in April. The average price of a tourist bed is HK$1,500 per room per night, compared with HK$1,300 before the pandemic, he said.

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Hotel occupancy reached 86% in April, unchanged from pre-pandemic levels.

Mr. Zheng said that in the first five months of this year, Hong Kong received more than 10 million tourists, equivalent to 40% of the same period last year. Coronavirus level.

“I am confident in the recovery of Hong Kong’s tourism industry, even surpassing our full-year target of receiving 26 million tourists back to Hong Kong in 2023,” he said, adding that progress would be gradual.

That target is less than half of the 56 million tourists who visited the city in 2019, down 14.2 percent from 2018.

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More tourists come for leisure and vacation. Between March and April, 47% of people went on vacation, up from 40% in February. But that share is still down from 61% before the pandemic.

Unlimited since return cross border The number of travelers traveling between Hong Kong and the mainland in January was only about 10% of that month’s pre-epidemic levels.

The pre-pandemic level refers to the daily average of 164,000 tourist arrivals to the city between 2017 and 2019.

Statistics cited by Cheng showed that visitor numbers recovered to 32 percent of pre-pandemic levels in February, 48 percent in March and 55 percent between April 1 and 28.

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A group of tourists from mainland China at a restaurant in To Kwa Wan.Photo: Junjie Zeng

During the period from April 29 to May 3, during the Labor Day Golden Week holiday in the mainland, the rate was 65%.

Between May 4 and 30, tourist arrivals were at 55% of pre-pandemic levels.

From March to April, mainland tourists, mainly young people aged 26 to 45, came to Hong Kong via the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail.

They prefer to take selfies in popular places, such as Yau Ma Tei Police Station, MacDonnell Road in Mid-Levels, experiencing nature in Cheung Chau and Lantau Island, visiting small shops and hanging out in local neighborhoods such as Apliu Street.

They also list a Star Ferry ride and Mobile Softee ice cream as must-dos.

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In order to attract more tourists, large-scale events will be held in summer, such as dragon boat festival 10-day Harbor Chill Carnival on June 24-25 and in July and August victoria harbor.

Leung Fang-yuan, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Federation of Trade Unions, said the industry was still short of thousands of workers.

She said she was concerned about the availability of hotel rooms during the summer holidays, when many mainland students are expected to head to Hong Kong for their education.

“If we don’t have enough hotel rooms for peak season, I’m afraid tourists will have to pay more for hotel accommodation, but their experience won’t necessarily be better.”

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Asked whether the government’s policy of importing labor could solve the problem, she said it was difficult to replace short-supplied travel agencies and tour guides with foreign workers because they needed to speak multiple languages, understand local conditions and understand the history of attractions. .

Ip Hing-ning, president of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents, said he was pessimistic about the recovery in the second half of the year, mainly because of limited flight capacity.

“Convenient transportation will bring tourists, but many international airlines have not yet returned to Hong Kong, and Cathay Pacific will take more time to return to full capacity,” he said.

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