South-east Asia shows love for Hong Kong as second largest inbound market now

Arrivals from South-east Asia have performed strongly for Hong Kong in the short months following the latter’s full reopening to travel and tourism in February this year.

The region contributed 971,000 visitors between January and July 2023, representing six per cent of total arrivals (16.4 million) to Hong Kong. The top performing markets are the Philippines (36 per cent), Thailand (23 per cent), Singapore (18 per cent), Indonesia (12 per cent) and Malaysia (11 per cent).

HKTB has lined up a series of events for the coming months, including Wine and Dine Festival 2023 in October, and Christmas light-ups and New Year countdown party in December; Winterfest 2022 pictured

As a result, the region is now Hong Kong’s second largest source market after China.

There were 13 million arrivals from China during the same seven-month period.

Speaking to TTG Asia, Martin Gwee, director, South-east Asia, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), said: “January and February were slow for us, as our borders were not fully reopened then, but once the last barriers were lifted, South-east Asian travellers came back very quickly from March.”

He said the Philippines “has proven to be a strong market”, with July arrivals – 70,637 – ­surpassing that of July 2019. He shared that trade partners in the Philippines said many Filipinos made Hong Kong their first post-lockdown overseas holiday destination.

For Indonesians and Filipinos, new attractions and experiences as well as shopping in Hong Kong were top draws; for the Singapore and Malaysia markets, local food and pop culture were hot favourites; for Thais, Hong Kong’s temples and fortune-paying tours were priorities.

Vietnam at the moment is a developing marketing for HKTB, so travellers are attracted to “everything Hong Kong has to offer, as all experiences are fresh to them”, shared Gwee.

Gwee believes that HKTB’s Hello Hong Kong campaign is instrumental in reigniting South-east Asians’ interest in the destination.

The campaign, launched with the full reopening of Hong Kong, is fronted by three legendary pop icons – Aaron Kwok, Sammi Cheng and Kelly Chen. One of the commercials showed Kwok dancing his way through different locations in Hong Kong, Chen swivelling excitedly in an eatery and serving up a multitude of favourite local fares, and Cheng jogging down a trail. In another commercial, Kwok addressed the audience, saying that Hong Kong’s food and shopping attractions await along with many other points of appeal.

When asked if these pop icons resonated with the non-Chinese-speaking Asian markets too, Gwee said Hong Kong’s pop culture has a strong grip across the region.

He said: “The campaign is well received in the other South-east Asian markets. The three pop artistes, in particular Aaron, are familiar faces with both the older and younger generation in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In fact, TVB (Hong Kong-based broadcasting company) dramas from a decade ago are still popular with the Vietnamese audience today. During our recent trade engagement trip to Indonesia, many agents asked about Andy Lau and Tony Leung (other popular Hong Kong entertainment personalities).

“The campaign reinforced the cultural closeness of Hong Kong and South-east Asia, and made it easier for us to get back into the minds of travellers from this region.”

The star-studded Hello Hong Kong campaign will soon be updated with a new set of content, revealed Gwee. Storylines will play up aspects of Hong Kong that will appeal to a younger audience, with a focus on culinary, entertainment, great outdoors and culture. Hong Kong’s night life will also be promoted. The updated campaign visuals will roll out end-September.

The youthful and vibrant face of Hong Kong can expect more limelight when HKTB hosts a reunion of 30 Hong Kong Super Fans from South-east Asia this October, during which they will partake in the destination’s Wine & Dine festival and Halloween parties. These participants are popular content creators and celebrities who are strong advocates of Hong Kong as a tourist destination.

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