Hong Kong set to see strong rebound in mainland tours for Golden Week in October

Tourists riding a traditional junk boat in front of the Hong Kong city skyline on Sept 17, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong is expected to see a massive rebound in the number of tour groups from mainland China during the Golden Week holiday starting this weekend, providing a welcome boost to the city's retailers.

Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association, which represents 132 tour operators in the city, estimated that the number of tour groups visiting each day will jump as much as 40 per cent from a year earlier, with most of them from mainland China.

"The growth is set to be significant as we pick up and rebound from the bottom," chairman Ricky Tse said. "China not encouraging people to visit Japan, Korea and Taiwan aids demand for package deals to come to Hong Kong, Macau as well as other destinations in the region."

Mr Tse said the volatile situation in North Korea had prompted concern about travel to countries nearby, while less negative news in official mainland media about the political situation in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests in 2014 paralysed parts of the city, had also helped boost tourism to the financial hub.

Hong Kong's retail sales have sagged in the past two years due to a drop in the number of tourists, though they picked up in July as inbound holidaymakers rose. The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US currency, which means it is prone to strengthen when other Asian currencies weaken.

Chinese tourism to South Korea has been falling since Seoul decided to station a US missile shield known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad). Cruises have erased Korean ports from their trips and some flights have been cut.

The Hong Kong tourism industry has been badly hit, with the number of tour groups falling to about 100 per day last year from the peak of about 600 tours a day a few years back.

"We expect that we will receive 280 to 300 tours per day this year," Mr Tse said. "It was 190 to 200 tours per day last year."

Hong Kong Tourism Board recorded a 2.4 per cent rise in tourist arrivals in July. Mainland visitors, who accounted for 78.9 per cent of the total, climbed 3.7 per cent. The board is due to announce the figures for August later this week.

Shares of retailers rose ahead of the Golden Week holiday with jeweller Chow Tai Fook rising 5.8 per cent so far this week, while smaller rival Luk Fook was up 9.7 per cent. Apparel retailer I.T climbed 3.9 per cent.

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