Lunar New Year visitors from mainland China spend HK$300 on average, fail to boost economy

Insert picture: Fanny Yeung

19th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) Over 1.25 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Hong Kong during the Lunar New Year holiday, surpassing the daily average figures from the same period in 2018. The travel industry expressed satisfaction with the numbers, noting that there were more mainland Chinese tour groups than anticipated. This increase is believed to be connected to the various grand events held in Hong Kong during the holiday season. On average, mainland visitors spent between HK$200 and HK$300 per person, a reasonable expenditure level. Industry insiders are hoping that the government will promote these events in advance to facilitate early planning and promotion by travel agencies. However, the food and beverage sector reported a 15% decline in sales compared to expectations and called for the city to explore unique themes to attract overseas and mainland visitors.

Fanny Yeung, Executive Director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, shared her insights during a radio program. The Council initially anticipated around 40,000 to 50,000 mainland visitors during the first eight days of the Lunar New Year holiday. However, the final figures exceeded expectations, with over 1,980 Mainland tour groups entering Hong Kong, involving approximately 66,000 tourists. On a daily basis, more than 200 mainland tour groups arrived, surpassing the average of over 170 groups per day in 2019. About half of the mainland tour groups were same-day return visitors, with most tourists coming from cities in the Greater Bay Area, such as Zhuhai. Their average expenditure of HK$200 to HK$300 per person was considered reasonable.

Fanny Yeung emphasised that hotel prices in Hong Kong tend to rise during the mainland’s Golden Week holiday, resulting in a decrease in the number of tour groups. She suggested that the government should promote events six to eight weeks in advance to allow travel agencies to plan and promote itineraries. She also advised reserving a portion of tickets for tour groups.

Despite the increasing number of mainland Chinese visitors, the food and beverage industry did not experience a surge in business. Rayman Chui, President of the Institute of Dining Professionals, attributed this to Hong Kong’s sluggish economic recovery, declining stock and property markets, reduced income for locals, and the fact that many Hong Kong residents travel to the mainland for shopping after passing through customs. The industry initially had a pessimistic outlook, expecting a 20% to 30% decrease in Lunar New Year business turnover. Therefore, a 15% decline was considered a fortunate outcome.

Chui further explained that although the various events held during the New Year attracted mainland tourists, their spending power remained weak. For instance, in cha chaan tengs (local Hong Kong-style diners), the average spending per person has dropped from HK$150 to HK$200 to around HK$50 to HK$100. Tourists have also altered their dining habits, shifting from ordering multiple dishes to choosing only one item, such as a pineapple bun, a cup of milk tea, and at most, an additional serving of French toast. Chui suggested that Hong Kong should develop unique themes to attract visitors from overseas and the mainland, drawing inspiration from other countries’ successful tourism themes, such as Thailand’s sunny beaches or Japan’s shopping destinations.