Around 1 million tourists from mainland China are estimated to arrive in Hong Kong during the first week of October, representatives from the tourism industry have said. The number remained significantly lower than the number of arrivals recorded before the 2019 protests and the pandemic.

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Tourists on the waterfront promenade in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, on May 2, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

With China’s National Day on Sunday following Mid-Autumn Festival, this year’s “Golden Week” holiday runs to eight consecutive days for mainland China residents from Friday. It is also the first Golden Week after Beijing lifted all Covid-19 restrictions and overseas travel curbs.

Perry Yiu, chairman of the state-owned travel agency China Travel Service and a lawmaker representing the tourism industry, said on Commercial Radio on Friday that he estimated 130,000 to 140,000 mainland Chinese tourists would arrive in Hong Kong per day during the public holiday, with hotel occupancy rates reaching 90 per cent.

The expected 1 million arrivals in total would be nearly 70 per cent of the pre-pandemic height, Yiu added.

Hong Kong saw rapidly growing numbers of mainland Chinese tourists before the protests and unrest of 2019, which broke out over a controversial amendment bill before expanding to call for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment, at times becoming violent.

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Tourists at Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier on May 2, 2023. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

During Golden Week in 2019, at the height of the protests, 670,000 tourists were arriving from mainland China – the lowest number in nine years.

In 2018, over 1.5 million arrivals visited Hong Kong during Golden Week, marking a 20 per cent increase compared to 2017.

Gianna Hsu, an owner of a travel agency and also chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC), told Sing Tao Daily in mid-September that she believed the slow recovery of mainland Chinese tourists could be because many chose to travel within China after the pandemic.

TIC also estimated that around 1 million travellers from mainland China would arrive in Hong Kong during Golden Week.

Tourists’ consumption dropped

Roy Lo, secretary of TIC and an owner of a travel agency, also told Sing Tao Daily in mid-September that statistics showed the consumption of mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong had significantly dropped compared to before the pandemic.

Lo said the decline was attributed to China’s economic downturn and the depreciation of China’s currency the Yuan. He said he believed spending would increase again once the Yuan strengthened.

The city’s finance chief said in August that fewer mainland Chinese tourists were visiting Hong Kong mainly to shop compared to the pre-pandemic era.

HKFP reported that many visitors have turned their attention to local neighbourhoods and memorable locations instead of lining up to shop in luxury stores in Hong Kong’s commercial heart, thanks to travel guides on Chinese social media and e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu.

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Visitors outside a coffee shop near the Kennedy Town Praya. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Exploring areas on foot, either aimlessly or along a designed route to visit unique locales, has become a popular mode of travel and discovery among young mainland Chinese in the post-pandemic era. Known as “citywalk,” it places an emphasis on wandering at a slow pace, and has already amassed more than 1 million posts on Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board announced on Thursday that it had worked with Xiaohongshu to publish a citywalk guide for Hong Kong to coincide with Golden Week, recommending walking routes across the city.

Hong Kong’s tourism industry has been recovering gradually since the city’s borders were opened at the beginning of the year after several years of Covid-related closures.

Mainland tourists To Kwa Wan Hung Hum tourism
Mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong on March 29, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The city welcomed almost 13 million visitor arrivals from January to June, of which 10 million were from mainland China, according to figures from the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB).

During the same period in 2019, the city recorded 34.78 millions visitors, 79 per cent of whom were from mainland China.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.