Two major cross-border links have pulled in 11.5 per cent more visitors into Hong Kong in October compared with the same period last year and triggered a 5.9 per cent jump in retail sales, according to tourism authorities.
Among the 5.88 million people who poured into the city, most were mainlanders, with a jump in this visitor segment reaching an all-time high for any October, the Tourism Board said on Friday.
The bulk of such tourists came over on day trips, facilitated by the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge last month and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which launched in late September.
The number of mainlanders visiting Hong Kong in October surged 15.4 per cent to 4.65 million, accounting for four out of every five visitors in the city.
“The October growth was mainly due to the express rail line and the bridge,” a Tourism Board spokeswoman said. She added that international visitors’ desire to travel to Hong Kong waned in the wake of a strengthening Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar.
When the 55km sea crossing opened in late October, tens of thousands of mainland tourists flooded into Lantau Island. Most of them were part of day-trip tour groups on weekends, and took public transport to Tung Chung, a Lantau residential area nearest to the Hong Kong port facility of the bridge.
The surging crowds of mall-goers and sightseers in the once quiet neighbourhood sparked anger from residents. This prompted Guangdong authorities earlier this week to order mainland tour operators to stop their weekend day trips to Hong Kong and offer quality packages that lasted two days or more.
The bumper arrival figures led to a 5.9 per cent growth in retail sales from the same period last year – compared with 2.4 per cent in September – amounting to HK$39.7 billion. But Hong Kong Retail Management Association chairwoman Annie Tse Yau On-yee said amid the ongoing US-China trade war, consumption patterns were expected to cool.
“Consumption slowed down much faster than we thought in the past two months,” Tse said. “The growth will cool down as the trade war heats up.”
She said many mainland tourists across the border could have also delayed trips between September to October, as they waited for the bridge to open. Tse added that those who came over on the bridge were likely to be living close to Hong Kong, which meant they had little motivation to stay overnight.
“So far, visitors travelling by the bridge will shop in Tung Chung whereas those coming through the express rail will go to Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Therefore, the influx of tourists has not yet benefited the entire industry,” she said.
“But we believe the infrastructure will do good for Hong Kong in the long run.”