A city still favoured

While Chinese travellers still visit Hong Kong in droves, the territory needs to stay wary of growing competition from regional destinations.

Hong Kong is still popular as a shopping destination for Chinese visitors

With mainland Chinese outbound travel hitting 130 million last year, Hong Kong still tops the list of outbound destinations even as Chinese become more adventurous and eager to seek out exotic locales.

Hong Kong is still popular as a shopping destination for Chinese visitors

It is unlikely Hong Kong will lose its appeal to Chinese travellers in the short term, as arrivals numbers from China to the territory show no signs of decline. Take last year as an example – the city hosted no fewer than about 44.5 million Chinese visitors, up 3.9 per cent from 2016.

Despite already being a top source market, China’s immense population means it still has room to grow, given that only a small percentage of Chinese have been given approval to visit the territory, Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union chairman Wong Ka-ngai told TTG Asia.

“Groups from the wealthy cities of South China still make repeat visits here for shopping,” Wong noted. “The appreciation of the renminbi is an impetus as well, making it more affordable to shop here.”

He added: “From my experience, Chinese travellers nowadays opt for longhaul destinations like Europe just to be able to say ‘been there, done that’. They don’t wish to make such a long trip again and Hong Kong still remains top of their list.”

However, CTS (HK) MICE Service director Ng Hei On believes that Hong Kong clearly has to sharpen its attractions proposition to entice the Chinese market, as Chinese travellers become increasingly sophisticated and no longer crave for luxury brands or shopping.

Said Ng: “What concerns me is whether we can draw more (Chinese) high spenders and make them stay longer. It’s tough to attract them because hotel rates are especially jacked up during exhibition seasons. Therefore, they may switch to affordable destinations in South-east Asia.”

Vigor Tours’ Greater China manager, Coral Wu, also expressed concern over Hong Kong’s image as a pricey destination. She added: “Currency is also an issue as the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar, so when the greenback is strong it drives them to South-east Asia as pricing affects (their desire to visit Hong Kong).”

Furthermore, South-east Asian destinations like Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have been stepping up efforts to win more Chinese traffic, leveraging their strengths in offering value-for-money packages in tropical settings, according to Holiday World Tours, managing director, Paul Leung.

“Chinese travellers from Central China are particularly fond of sunshine and beach experiences i.e. Cebu and Boracay. We can’t compete with these nature resources and our advantage are theme parks and shopping,” said Leung. “Perhaps Hong Kong should start exploring new products in order to woo Chinese visitors.”

Wong agreed: “From the leisure travel perspective, I would like to see more modern and contemporary attractions. As heritage is a strength of China that we can’t compete with, interesting and creative events like e-sports games may be a way to lure more mainland visitors.”

As well, the Hong Kong trade should bank on opportunities arising from new developments in the Pearl River Delta region, suggested Sincere International Travel Service managing director Charles Ng.

“New infrastructure developments like High Speed Rail and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will open up new opportunities. More tourist traffic from the west of Guangdong Province is expected with improved accessibility, so I remain positive on China inbound business.”

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