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Hong Kong`s June 2003 visitor arrival figures show first signs of recovery

A total of 725,236 visitor arrivals were recorded in Hong Kong in June 2003, according to…

A total of 725,236 visitor arrivals were recorded in Hong Kong in June 2003, according to detailed figures issued yesterday by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB).

While this represents a drop of 38.2% compared with the same month in 2002, it is a considerable improvement on the 67.9% shortfall recorded in May, showing that Hong Kong`s recovery from the effects of the SARS outbreak on tourism is now well under way.

Most encouragingly of all, arrivals from Mainland China actually showed positive growth of 11.0% for the month, totalling 470,562 compared with the 423,763 recorded in June 2002. The Mainland has been one of the earliest markets to show recovery since a ban on outbound tours from Guangdong was lifted at the beginning of June, although bans on tours from other provinces were not lifted until 9 July.

HKTB Deputy Executive Director Grace Lee noted that there was still a long way to go before arrivals returned to pre-SARS levels, but the trend now looked very encouraging. Early figures from July confirm a continuing upward pattern, she said. We have already surpassed June arrivals with over 760,000 visitors in the first 20 days. Following the launch of our two-month Hong Kong Welcomes You! promotion on 13 July, we are confident the recovery will gain further momentum. Thanks to the great support from our trade partners, there are some quite amazing travel packages out there in the market at present, and the feedback we are getting from our worldwide offices is very positive.

Citing some examples, Mrs Lee said that 20,000 bookings had been received for a Buy One, Get One Free offered package in Taiwan within one week, while a consumer contest to win free tickets in the United States and Canada had drawn more than 10,000 entries. In total, 15 airlines, over 100 travel agencies and all the major hotels in Hong Kong are working with us worldwide to put together special packages, she said. We have set ourselves a target of attracting two million visitors during the Hong Kong Welcomes You! period and I am very confident that goal is realistic and achievable.

Analysis by Markets, June and Jan-June 2003

Apart from Mainland China, all markets continued to show negative growth in June, although most were around 60-75% down compared with the 85-90% shortfall recorded in May. The best performers were Europe, Africa & the Middle East, which improved 23.2 percentage points from -86.0% in May to -62.8% in June; and Taiwan, which improved 22.8 percentage points from -87.3% to -64.5% despite the fact that quarantine restrictions in Taiwan ruled out most leisure traffic from the island to Hong Kong until the last week of June.

Cumulatively, arrivals for the first six months of 2003 now stand at 20.7% down compared with the same period in 2002, although arrivals from the Mainland are still recording positive overall growth of 12.1%. All other markets are currently showing negative overall growth of between 38% and 46%.

Same-Day Visitors

In June 2003, 44.8% of all visitors continued to other destinations on the same day as arrival, compared with only 36.9% for the same month in 2002. The likely reason is that those visitors who are short stay by nature – for example business people who travel to or from the Mainland via Hong Kong – have returned more rapidly than the longer-staying leisure visitors, who tend to take a greater lead-time between planning and actually making their trips.

Some 86.0% of visitors from Taiwan – who in June were mostly business visitors – left again on the same day as arrival. In contrast, however, 65.5% of visitors from The Americas and 65.3% from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific stayed for one night or longer, as did 62.7% of those from South & Southeast Asia and 60.6% from the Mainland.

For the first six months of 2003 to date, 61.0% of all visitors have stayed for one night or longer, not far short of the 64.3% recorded for the same period in 2002.

Hotel Occupancy

Average occupancy rate across all categories of hotels and tourist guest houses in June was 34%, compared with 79% in June 2002. Unusually, the higher tariff hotels fared slightly better than medium tariff hotels and guesthouses, indicating that the early stages of recovery are being led by business travellers. Another reason could be that visitors are taking advantage of current special offers to upgrade.

However, it should also be noted that available room supply, on which occupancy rates are based, has been reduced more at the top tariff hotels than at others, with some hotels closing entire floors or bringing forward renovation work due to the downturn. In June, the average number of available rooms at top tariff hotels stood at 21.3% less than for the same month in 2002, whereas the equivalent figure for medium-tariff hotels was 3.8% less. Overall occupancy rates in June were based on 32,326 available rooms, which represents 84.3% of a total inventory of 38,362 rooms in establishments responding to the HKTB`s surveys.

Cumulatively, occupancy for the first six months of 2003 now stands at 54%, compared with 82% for the first half of 2002.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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