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Hong Kong Tourism arrivals make strong start to 2003 with 31% growth

After finishing 2002 with more than 20% growth in visitor arrivals to a record 16.57 million, Hong Kong`s tourism industry has started the new year in equally strong shape…

After finishing 2002 with more than 20% growth in visitor arrivals to a record 16.57 million, Hong Kong`s tourism industry has started the new year in equally strong shape, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) said today. Visitor arrivals for January 2003 totalled 1,545,978, the highest January figure to date and a 31.0% growth over the first month of 2002.

Every market showed positive growth, several of them double-digit growth including South & Southeast Asia (130,440, +15.1%), North Asia (172,293, +12.6%), Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific (39,596, +10.5%). Arrivals from Europe, Africa & the Middle East rose 9.0% to 99,155; those from Taiwan by 6.1% to 200,258; and those from The Americas by 5.9% to 110,148. Mainland China again led the way, however, with 750,929 arrivals, a year-on-year increase of 65.1%.

Business traffic from the short-haul markets was stimulated by major trade shows such as the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair and Hong Kong Fashion Week, while there are indications that some leisure travellers from Asia and Australia chose Hong Kong due to concerns about longer journeys with a Middle East war imminent, or government advisories on some other destinations.

HKTB Executive Director Clara Chong cautioned that although January`s 31% increase was very encouraging, it was too early to assume that such strong performance could be maintained. We do expect to see good growth continuing into February, not least because of the Lunar New Year holiday, when provisional figures indicate that total arrivals were some 30% up over the first seven days of the holiday, she noted.

Beyond February, however, the situation is a good deal less certain. We are closely monitoring the situation through our worldwide offices and trade partners, and are already hearing some reports of travellers in North America and Europe delaying their travel plans, Ms Chong observed. If war breaks out, it will inevitably have an impact on Hong Kong tourism, especially on longer-haul visitors and on business travel from all markets.

Same-Day Visitors

Since the October 2000 figures, the HKTB has published a monthly breakdown of overnight visitors – defined by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) as those who stay in Hong Kong for one night or more) – and same day visitors (those who leave for another destination on the same day as arrival). The WTO defines international visitors as including both groups.

This is a significant issue in Hong Kong because of its growing status as a regional transport hub; in particular, a substantial proportion of visitors from Taiwan are business people who continue by land or sea to other destinations in the Pearl River Delta.

It should be noted that same day arrivals only include those visitors who actually pass through Immigration and spend time in Hong Kong; it does not include those who are purely in transit at Hong Kong International Airport.

In January 2003, 37.6% of all visitors – about 581,000 in total – continued to other destinations on the same day as arrival. This compares with 34.8% in January 2002. Taiwan visitors remain the least likely to stay overnight, with only 18.4% doing so in January. On the other hand, 80.3% of visitors from The Americas, 80.1% of those from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific and 75.1% of those from South & Southeast Asia stayed for at least one night, as did 65.6% of all visitors from the Mainland.

Hotel Occupancy

The average hotel occupancy rate in January was 82%, a one percentage point increase on the 81% recorded in January 2002. Hotels in the top tariff category averaged 79% occupancy, while those at the next level averaged 85%, outperforming hotels of medium tariff.

Geographically, hotels in Kowloon and the non-core areas of Hong Kong Island were the busiest, all achieving 86% occupancy.

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