Hong Kong’s online pre-arrival registration (PAR) requirement for Indian nationals, in place since January, has triggered a 20 per cent drop in Indian inbound to 207,133 in 1H2017.
And with Macau a popular twin destination in Indian travellers’ itinerary, the entertainment city has also seen fewer Indian footfalls – down 12.9 per cent to 91,090 in 1H2017.
Ronald Wu, director of sales and marketing at Hong Kong’s Grayline Tours, said the impact on Macau was lighter compared with Hong Kong because Indian nationals transiting at Hong Kong International Airport to Macau did not need PAR, as long as they show their Macau ferry tickets at the immigration counters.
For Chennai-based ttworld-tours.com’s CEO, Tamilselvam T, trouble brought on by the new visa system was the high number of application rejections.
“(Tendency of rejection is higher for travellers) from North India. It’s typical for clients to pay for their tour only to have their PAR application rejected later. We agents have to refund their money, which means the extra administration burden.”
Travel Agents Association of Jharkhand president Sanjiv Poddar, said: “One immediate impact I’ve observed is that Indian business event groups have chosen to skip Hong Kong (in order to avoid PAR application) and only hold their meetings in Macau.”
Indian leisure groups, however, are skipping Hong Kong and Macau entirely and spending their vacation elsewhere in the region. Poddar expects Indian travel to fall by 20 per cent to Hong Kong and Macau. “(PAR) is also giving additional work to our staff as they have to fill out online application forms for our clients,” he lamented.
He hopes the Hong Kong government can relax the rules at least for family groups, such that a single approval is only needed rather than the existing requirement for individuals.
CITS (Macao) international department manager, Cooper Zhang, has also reported dismal Indian performance.
He told TTG Asia: “Leisure market is the worst hit. For the upcoming Devali, bookings don’t look promising and we are estimating a 30 to 40 per cent drop in business.”
Oriental Travels India’s director Mukesh Goel is, however, unaffected, saying that Macau’s many new integrated resorts and their varied recreational attractions are strong enough magnets to keep Indian travellers coming despite the PAR requirement.
“What we are seeing though is clients cutting down time in Hong Kong to stay on longer in Macau,” he remarked.