Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday that there are no plans to restore the multiple-entry Individual Visit Scheme if there is a drop in tourist numbers over the May 1 Golden Week holiday.
Speaking to reporters before an Executive Committee meeting, Leung stated that the government pays close attention to potential issues stemming from tourism that can affect Hong Kong and its people.
“The government is aware of the fact that if there are too many tourists it can create undue pressure in Hong Kong, affecting the daily lives of the local populace. Therefore, the SAR government pays close attention to restrictions on the capacity and number of tourists, which is why – since our second month in office – we have worked to change the multiple-entry Individual Visit Scheme into the ‘one trip per week’ Individual Visit Endorsements.”
The replacement of the Individual Visit Scheme with the Individual Visit Endorsements was announced in April of last year, allowing endorsement holders to visit Hong Kong only once a week. The endorsements were implemented to combat problems with the capacity of mainland tourists as well as parallel good traders.
Despite numbers suggesting a drop of up to 50 percent in mainland tourism numbers just months after the endorsements were implemented, Leung stated that the endorsements were here to stay.
“I have stated before that we do not have any plans, preparations, or wish to restore the Individual Visit Scheme. As we have secured the support of the central government and cooperation with Shenzhen in the past year to change the scheme, it has helped combat the issue of parallel goods traders.”
Leung also criticised what he perceived to be hostile actions and movements against mainland tourists.
“We oppose any uncivilised movements that destroy Hong Kong’s reputation as a hospitable city. These movements not only affect the perception of mainland tourists towards Hong Kong, but international tourists as well. Hong Kong has protesters that use such measures on mainland tourists, which is unnecessary.”
Rising anti-tourist sentiment stemming from parallel good traders and a damaged perception of Hong Kong due to protests and unrest have been cited as reasons for the drop in tourism. The Mong Kok unrest in February has been cited as the reason for the drop in tourism by Finance Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board Peter Lam Kin-ngok.
Tourism development in Hong Kong was dropped from China’s 2016-2020 five-year-plan in March, with former Legislative Council President and National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Rita Fan calling the decision reasonable due to the sentiments and unrest.