For the second time in three months, visitor arrivals to Hong Kong have passed the two-million mark in a single month…
For the second time in three months, visitor arrivals to Hong Kong have passed the two-million mark in a single month. October 2004 arrivals were their best ever for October at 2,015,420, only just short of the landmark 2.07 million recorded in August.
The achievement is especially notable as it represents a strong 18.9% growth on the 1.70 million visitors welcomed in October 2003, which was itself a record-breaking total at the time as Hong Kong’s tourism industry staged a sharp recovery from the severe challenges it had faced earlier that year.
All market regions except Taiwan showed double-digit growth over their October 2003 performance, notably Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific (47,879, +30.9%); The Americas (154,053 arrivals, +30.6%); North Asia (147,343, +23.8%); and South & Southeast Asia (194,042, +21.5%).
Arrivals from Mainland China passed the million mark once again at 1,079,392 (+22.9%), boosted by the National Day Golden Week holiday at the beginning of the month. More than a quarter of these arrivals were recorded in the first five days of October alone, with total Mainland visitors for the 10-day Golden Week period (28 Sep–7 Oct) reaching 438,889, well ahead of the HKTB’s 400,000 forecast.
Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Executive Director Clara Chong commented that the industry’s positive growth momentum was now becoming very clear. “Earlier in the year it was difficult to benchmark our progress accurately due to the low comparison base of 2003 – but now we’re comparing performance against previous records and still surpassing them,” she said.
“With a few exceptions that the HKTB is addressing, we are no longer talking about recovery, but about strong organic growth. We’re especially pleased with the performance of our major long-haul markets. The United States is on target to reach its highest-ever total this year, as is Australia, while the United Kingdom should achieve its best performance since 1996.”
For the first ten months of 2004 overall, Hong Kong has now welcomed 17,773,512 arrivals, growth of 47.4% on the same period in 2003 and 33.4% on 2002. This already takes Hong Kong well past its previous best total for a full year, the 16.57 million arrivals recorded in 2002. In view of this, the HKTB has recently raised its forecast for the whole of 2004 from 20.49 million to 21.36 million.
Analysis by Markets, October and January–October 2004
The 1,079,392 October arrivals from Mainland China included 440,239 under the Individual Visit Scheme, 40.8% of the total. In the first ten months of 2004, Hong Kong has now welcomed 10,058,867 Mainland arrivals, 54.4% more than for the same period in 2003. Of these, 3,399,447 have arrived under the Individual Visit Scheme, 33.8% of the total.
Taiwan continues to be Hong Kong’s second largest source market, with 180,311 arrivals in October (–8.5% compared with October 2003) and 1,725,555 arrivals (+14.6%) for the year to date. Steady growth in leisure travel for this market is being offset by a fall in business travel since late 2003, due to the new direct ferry services from Hong Kong International Airport to Pearl River Delta destinations which do not require Mainland-bound travellers to pass through Hong Kong immigration.
South & Southeast Asia is fast catching up, with October arrivals topping those of Taiwan at 194,042 (+21.5%) and arrivals for the year to date now reaching 1,604,435 (+59.5%). Thailand (34,432 arrivals, +38.3%) showed especially encouraging October growth, as did Singapore (37,599, +31.6%), the Philippines (34,167, +26.0%) and Malaysia (28,534, +24.2%), while growth from Indonesia (20,187, +10.5%) was more modest due to the earlier start of Ramadan this year. Special Hong Kong packages offered at consumer travel fairs in Singapore and Malaysia during September contributed to the strong performance, along with several major trade shows held in Hong Kong in October, which drew many business visitors, and school holidays in Thailand, which boosted family travel.
Arrivals from North Asia totalled 147,343 (+23.8%) in October and now stand at 1,325,484 (+35.6%) for the year to date. South Korea continues to produce some of its best-ever figures, with arrivals reaching 48,786 (+31.5%) in October. Trade shows such as the Hong Kong Electronics Fair, Hong Kong International Toys & Gifts Show and Hong Kong Premium & Household Products Show were also attractive draws in this market. Japan, meanwhile, is picking up steadily, with 98,557 arrivals (+20.3%) recorded in the month, although this is still about 10% short of the 2002 figure.
In the long-haul markets, The Americas is leading the field with 1,141,674 (+58.3%) arrivals for the year to date, including 154,053 (+30.6%) in October. Canada recorded especially strong October growth of 41.0% with 29,069 arrivals, aided by the strong Canadian dollar and the continued success of the HKTB’s tactical promotions with trade and media partners. In the United States, October is an especially strong month for business travel to Hong Kong, reflected in this market’s 29.9% growth to 114,520 arrivals.
Europe, Africa & the Middle East is close behind The Americas on its year-to-date arrivals, which now stand at 1,136,059 (+54.0%), and it bettered that region in October with 174,334 arrivals (+16.2%). France (19,178 arrivals, +30.8%) showed the strongest October growth, with the United Kingdom (45,487, +28.1%) continuing to perform well and results from Germany (22,453, +25.5%) also encouraging.
Although Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific is the smallest of the the HKTB’s seven market regions, its growth rate has been the highest of all so far this year. In October, it contributed 47,879 arrivals (+30.9%), taking its year-to-date total to 388,341 (+62.3%). Australia is performing especially well, with a joint HKTB/Qantas promotion in October helping lift arrivals to 40,748 (+35.5%).
Same-Day In-Town Visitors
In October, 60.0% of all visitors stayed one night or longer, slightly fewer than the 61.5% recorded in October 2003. The remaining 40.0% were classified as “same-day in-town” visitors, departing for another destination on the same day as arrival. This phenomenon reflects Hong Kong’s increasing importance as a regional transport hub and is most pronounced among the short-haul markets. Most long-haul visitors stay one night or more, including 77.3% of all arrivals from Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific in October, 77.0% from The Americas and 73.5% from Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. On other hand, only 25.6% of Taiwan visitors stayed overnight, as many travellers from this market are in transit to/from Mainland China or other regional destinations.
For the first ten months of 2004, 62.5% of all visitors have stayed for one night or more, compared with only 61.6% for the same period in 2003.
Average occupancy rate across all categories of hotels and tourist guest houses in October was 89%, compared with 85% for the same month in 2003. As October is always a strong month for business travel to Hong Kong, high-end accommodation outperformed the average both by category – with hotels in the top two tariff brackets averaging 90% occupancy – and by location, with hotels in Central and Admiralty averaging 91%. Hotels in the Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok areas, which are popular with individual Mainland visitors, also averaged 91% occupancy.
The average achieved hotel room rate across all hotel categories and districts was HK$1,065, nearly 16% improvement on the October 2003 figure.
Cumulatively for the first ten months of 2004, average occupancy now stands at 86%, compared with only 66% for the same period in 2003 and 83% in 2002. The average achieved hotel room rate is HK$789, a significant improvement on the HK$664 recorded for this period in 2003 and HK$706 in 2002.
Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.