HONG KONG (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While the number of visitors to Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland fell for the first time in 20 years over the Chinese New Year holiday, the government in the special administrative region wants to cut it back even further.
Speaking before the start of an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying said the individual visit programme involving 49 cities on the mainland should not be expanded, but tightened up.
"I have been advising the central government not to expand the scheme, as Hong Kong's capacity to receive tourists is limited," Mr Leung said, adding that the subject will be discussed in the coming "two sessions".
The drop, though a mere 0.3 per cent over the first three days of the festival, is the first holiday decrease in about two decades, according to Reuters, quoting an industry group.
The Chinese mainland leads the world in outbound tourism, with more than 100 million people traveling overseas in 2014. Of those, 40 million visited Hong Kong.
Mr Ip Kwok Him, a delegate to the National People's Congress from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the number of visitors to Hong Kong has grown fast, which has aided the development of tourism and retail industries and created job opportunities thanks to the multi-entry permit under the current individual travel scheme.
However, he said, growth in visits from the mainland had also put pressure on ports, tourism facilities and even local people's livelihoods. And tourists thus do not enjoy quality service sometimes.
Mr Shi Wenjing, a financial auditor in Shanghai, said a tighter travel control policy would create a gap between the mainland and Hong Kong that would be good for neither.
"When the whole world is trying to attract mainland tourists to visit their countries by loosening visa requirements, it is ridiculous to hear that Hong Kong, which is part of our own country, is trying to push mainland visitors outside," Mr Shi said.
Mr Wei Xiaoan, the secretary-general of the China Tourism Leisure Association, was sceptical over any tightening of the number of visits.
"Hong Kong, along with Macau and Taiwan, has long been a popular destination for Chinese mainland tourists and shoppers because of the short flight, familiar language and cheap price of goods," he said. "So it is an irresistible trend."
"The limited capacity theory is not that convincing," Mr Wei said. "When some place is overwhelmed by visitors, other visitors go somewhere else. The number of tourists should be adjusted by the market, not government policies."