Mainland tourists visiting HK for Chinese Lunar New Year surpassed same period of 2018; ‘Article 23 legislation to provide sustainable peace’
Published: Feb 16, 2024 07:24 PM
Fireworks in celebration of the Spring Festival illuminate the sky over Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 11, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)

Fireworks in celebration of the Spring Festival illuminate the sky over Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 11, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)

Nearly 4 million trips crossed the border of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) during the first four days of the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival national holidays since February 10, with more than 750,000 tourists coming to Hong Kong, 650,000 of whom were from the mainland. This data has surpassed the figures from the same period in 2018, the HKSAR government said recently.

Tourists from the mainland, reached by the Global Times, said on Friday that the restoration of peace and stability is the most important element that makes them choose Hong Kong as a travel destination for holidays. Although hotel prices remain high as most hotels need tourists to spend at least 1,000 to 2,000 yuan ($140 to $280) per night, Hong Kong's special tourist resources are still very attractive to tourists. According to the data provided by professionals in relevant industries, the hotel occupancy rate reached 90 percent.

Some Western media outlets have consistently badmouthed Hong Kong's economy since the introduction of national security law for Hong Kong by the central government in 2020, but the current recovery proves that these outlets have repeatedly failed to understand and explain Hong Kong's past, present and future, said experts.

Professionals in the Hong Kong tourism industry said on Friday that the data is expected to further increase in the next few days before the end of the national holidays. They also emphasized that the national security legislation for Hong Kong has played a key role of stabilizer in ending turmoils and restoring public order. They believe that this legislation is the precondition for the current successful recovery.

They called for the successful completion of the Basic Law Article 23 legislation as soon as possible this year, so that it can provide sustainable peace within the society and contribute to long-term economic recovery.

Successful recovery

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism of the HKSAR government, told the media on Wednesday that "in the past few days over the Lunar New Year, the inbound visitor number reached the level in the same period in 2018, matching earlier estimates. The night parade on the first day of Lunar New Year, the fireworks display on the second day, the horse race on the third day and the soccer match on the fourth day yesterday were all well received and further boosted the festive vibes," according to the press release by the HKSAR government.

The preliminary inbound visitor number from Chinese Lunar New Year's Day to the fourth day of Lunar New Year (February 10 to 13) stood at around 750,000, among which 650,000 visitors were from the mainland and this figure was higher than that in the same period in 2018 when 640,000 mainland visitors came to Hong Kong, said the official.

Around 1,200 mainland inbound tour groups involving around 40,500 visitors came to Hong Kong during the four days. Both the numbers of mainland inbound tour groups and tour group visitors exceeded those during the same periods of the Chinese New Year Golden Weeks of the mainland before the COVID-19 pandemic, Yeung said.

Safeguard the recovery

Dicky Yip, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Practitioners Union, told the Global Times on Friday that "today, Hong Kong does not have as many advantages compared to other major cities in China in terms of urban landscape. In some cases, mainland cities are even more developed and advanced than Hong Kong, but we still possess special cultural characteristics as Hong Kong has always played a role in connecting the world and China."

This is why tourists are still interested in Hong Kong and can be attracted by the special cultural and sports events organized in the city, but due to the high cost, many tourists from the mainland prefer to have a one-day tour or day round trip, according to Yip.

The national security legislation implemented by the central government for Hong Kong in 2020 played a significant role in restoring stability and public order in the city, as "it has brought confidence to Hong Kong residents and our mainland compatriots, allowing everyone to feel proud when walking on the streets of Hong Kong and free from bias, discrimination, ideological extremism and dangers," Yip noted. He hopes that the Basic Law Article 23 legislation can be completed in 2024 as soon as possible, as this is not only beneficial for tourism, but also helps guarantee sustainable peace and stability for everyone in this city.

Wang Huiwen, a 36-year-old mainland tourist from Hunan Province, brought his family to Hong Kong during the national holidays. He told the Global Times on Friday that "Hong Kong today shows a much more peaceful and stable image to everyone, and people are much more friendly and confident."

"The only problem is that there were too many people in almost every scenic spot and everything is more expensive than in the mainland. My wife told me that maybe we can come back another day when it's not peak tourist season," Wang noted.

Greater Bay Area integration

According to the Immigration Department of HKSAR government on Wednesday, from February 10 to 13, there were at least 3.92 million people exiting and entering Hong Kong, and this is also the first Spring Festival holidays since the implementation of "Northbound Travel for Hong Kong Vehicles" policy. According to the Zhuhai border inspection terminal, this is the first time that the number of vehicles with only Hong Kong licence plates entering or exiting the mainland through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge reached more than 8,000 in a single day on Monday, with more than 130,000 people entering or exiting the border.

Under the northbound travel for Hong Kong and Macao vehicles programs, which took effect last year, more and more residents from Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions who have obtained an entry permit in advance have chosen to drive to visit their motherland through the highway port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge, said border inspection officers.

"Hong Kong's consumption is not just expensive to tourists, but also expensive to local residents. Today, whether in terms of services, products or cuisines, the mainland can provide everything we need with high quality and reasonable prices. This is the key reason why many Hong Kong residents are coming to Shenzhen for shopping, dining and traveling," said Yip.

"In the past, many mainland people used to go to Hong Kong to buy tax-free products. Today, numerous Hong Kong residents come to the mainland every week to go shopping in malls and supermarkets. This is the dramatic change we have witnessed in this era," said Kenny Ho, 32, a Hong Kong resident who came to Shenzhen to spend the holidays with his family.

Not only Shenzhen, but many cities in Guangdong Province are also popular for Hong Kong tourists for short-line tour. If they want to go further, they will choose Chengdu in Sichuan Province or Xi'an in Shaanxi Province; Northeast China regions and Beijing are also very popular, said Yip, adding that in recent years, more and more people are applying for tour groups to go to Xizang, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai and so on.