Hong Kong logs 1.32 million outward trips by city residents over Christmas break

Hong Kong has recorded more than 1.32 million outbound trips made by city residents over the past three days of the Christmas holidays, outnumbering visitor arrivals by nearly three times, an outflow that industry representatives said had affected local consumption.

Hospitality figures said business was slower than last Christmas, when coronavirus social-distancing measures and travel restrictions were in force and urged authorities to introduce more measures to boost city consumption.

Statistics released by the Immigration Department on Tuesday showed that 1,327,744 outbound trips were made by Hongkongers from Saturday to Monday, 2.8 times the 470,648 inbound trips made by mainland Chinese and overseas visitors recorded over the same period.

Visitors from the mainland accounted for 77 per cent of arrivals.

Residents’ eagerness to spend Christmas outside the city results in sluggish business. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Anthea Cheung So-may, director of the Lan Kwai Fong Association, which groups together 100 restaurants and bars in the popular entertainment area in Central, said fewer people came to the district over the festive break compared with last year when restrictions were still in force.

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“People came at 2pm previously [on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day], but we saw fewer crowds than last year. People came here to celebrate later this year, at around 5pm and 6pm,” she told a radio programme.

“It’s still possible to book a table for the day this year … but last year we were fully booked almost two weeks before.”

She attributed the sluggish business over Christmas to the public’s eagerness to spend the holiday outside the city and said tourist arrivals had failed to plug the gap.

A total of 470,648 inbound trips were recorded over the past three days of the Christmas holidays. Photo: Edmond So

Cheung said visitors had also become more careful about spending in a weak global economy, with more than HK$1,000 (US$128) each on average, despite restaurants’ efforts to reduce the holiday price surge to less than 10 per cent.

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She urged the government to strengthen ties with the industry, hold more large-scale concerts and invite global star singers and bands to perform in the city to attract more overseas tourists.

Retail-sector legislator Peter Shiu Ka-fai said the industry was affected by a trend of residents travelling elsewhere to celebrate Christmas, which was not a public holiday on the mainland, so the city did not record a surge in the number of arrivals from there.

Legislator Peter Shiu calls on the government to introduce more activities to attract tourists. Photo: Jelly Tse

He said jewellery sales were in line with last year, despite an earlier expectation of a 10 per cent increase, although cosmetics retailers saw a double-digit rise in business because of discounts.

“There were many people, including local residents and tourists, and there were even road closures in some places,” Shiu told the same radio programme. “The atmosphere was good.”

“But overall, both the world economy and the Hong Kong economy are average … The spending power of mainland tourists was not as strong as before 2018.”

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Shiu appealed to authorities to introduce more activities, events and offers to encourage the public to spend in the city and also attract tourists. He also asked for better industry services and a more friendly attitude towards visitors.

Mainland authorities logged record numbers of Hongkongers using the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge by car.

The number of cars headed out of the city on Christmas Day broke the Zhuhai checkpoint’s daily record as it exceeded 16,000.

More than 300,000 trips were made using the bridge between December 23 and 25, among which were 187,000 arrivals to the mainland.

Additional reporting by Jess Ma

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