The newly opened mega bridge brought bumper business to Hong Kong’s iconic cable cars on Lantau Island, which recorded double-digit growth in visitor numbers, the operator said on Tuesday.
Ngong Ping 360 noted its number of guests jumped 15 per cent, or about 10,000 people, between the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge’s public launch, on October 24, and November 4, compared with the same period last year. The number of mainland visitors doubled.
The 55km sea crossing opened after two years’ of delays and budget overruns in the billions of dollars. It is expected to further integrate the two special administrative regions with southern China while boosting local tourism, which is on track to recover from a 2015 slump.
The number of tour groups also increased by about four times, compared with the same period in 2017.
Despite the positive business impact on the major attraction, residents who live in the area, Tung Chung, raised an outcry over an influx of tour groups, The community was formerly a quiet town, and is located near Hong Kong International Airport.
On Sunday, a record number of more than 100,000 people passed through the local port, with many of them pouring into Tung Chung to shop, eat and sightsee due to its proximity to the checkpoint. This resulted in crowded stores, long bus queues, noise and litter.
Illegal tour agents were suspected of running incoming travel tours in Hong Kong without licences and were believed to have contributed to the overcrowding in Tung Chung. Local police will follow up on allegations and the government has asked mainland authorities to help investigate, according to the Tourism Commission.
Vicky Lau Shuk-yee, head of corporate affairs at Ngong Ping 360, said the firm had complied with the official requirement, and obtained details of both mainland and local tour guides while a group used its service.
“But some people form a tour group and buy tickets through different channels. So whether they really are travellers from tour groups, we aren’t clear about that,” Lau added.
“What we can say is, we closely followed the government’s requirement.”
She said tour group travellers “must be brought in” by their own tour guide as well as a Hong Kong tour guide.
Lau revealed that on Sunday travellers had to wait for about 1½ to two hours to get onto the cable cars, compared with about an hour on previous Sundays.
To divert the flow of passengers, the company allocated a daily booking quota to groups and for on-site ticket purchase to avoid visitor bottlenecks, she said.
An electronic queuing service and a waiting area for reserved groups would also be available as part of the crowd management control measures.
Ngong Ping 360, a subsidiary of the MTR Corporation that opened in 2006, drew 1.04 million visitors in 2017, down from 1.71 million in 2016. Last year, the attraction was closed for almost five months as the cable car’s wire ropes were replaced.
Its 5.7km journey takes about 25 minutes, affording panoramic views of North Lantau Country Park, Tung Chung Bay, the airport and the mega bridge.