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Travellers pack Hong Kong’s West Kowloon terminus of the high speed rail on the first day of the Easter break. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Hong Kong residents make 1.76 million outbound trips over Easter break as mainland China tours surge in popularity

  • Most sought-after mainland destinations include Greater Bay Area cities such as Foshan, Dongguan and Huizhou, travel agency boss says
  • About 1.51 million trips made using eight land crossings, including high-speed rail link and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

Cross-border tours to Guangdong, Fujian and Guizhou provinces in mainland China have gained in popularity among Hong Kong residents who made nearly 1.76 million outbound trips over the Easter break.

The number of Hongkongers who headed out of the city over the four-day holiday from Friday to Monday dwarfed the 400,000 or so inbound trips made by mainland visitors and other tourists, Immigration Department figures showed.

About 1.51 million, or 86 per cent, of the outbound trips by residents were made using the eight land crossings for passengers including Lo Wu, the high-speed rail link and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

City tour agencies said on Tuesday that they had noticed a surge in the popularity of mainland destinations. Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, the executive director of EGL Tours, said the number of residents who joined the company’s cross-border tours tripled compared with last Easter.

Visitors enjoy the sights of the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing. Photo: AP

“We have seen a ‘China fever’ among Hong Kong tourists after the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “The number of Hongkongers opting for mainland destinations has surged, encompassing not only the Greater Bay Area but various places across mainland China.”

The bay area refers to the central government’s scheme to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in neighbouring Guangdong into an integrated economic and business hub.

Huen said the most sought-after mainland destinations included bay area cities such as Foshan, Dongguan and Huizhou, while Sichuan, Yunnan, Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao, among others, had also gained in popularity.

About 30 tours, each made up of 25 to 35 people, departed daily for the mainland over the four-day break, he said.

The operator also introduced new tours this year, taking tourists to see flowers in Wuhan and the Three Gorges reservoir area.

Hongkongers make 1.5 million outbound trips in first 3 days of Easter break

Vicky Tsim, who manages tour guides at travel agency Yummy Holiday, said more than 300 mainland-bound tours left from five checkpoints over the holiday, double last year’s number. Each tour had 30 to 40 members from Hong Kong.

She said tours to Guangdong cities accounted for about 80 per cent of all the ones to the mainland, and the most popular destinations included Guangzhou and Huizhou.

About 20 tours each went to Fujian province and Guilin city, a dozen to Guizhou, and nearly 20 to the Three Gorges reservoir region that stretches along the Yangtze River.

She said the company also organised three to four trips with a dozen Hongkongers each to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Tsim attributed the surge in popularity of such tours to convenient transport, improved hotel facilities and lower prices across the border, as well as Hongkongers’ better understanding of the mainland.

A man adds an extra dash of colour to spring blossoms at a public park in Beijing. Photo: AP

Hong Kong recorded about 1.56 million outbound trips by residents over the four-day Easter holiday in 2018, before the coronavirus crisis, and around 617,000 inbound trips by mainlanders and other visitors.

The trend of Hongkongers heading north to spend the Easter break this year left city tourism operators and restaurants complaining of sluggish business and calling for more support.

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Kelvin Yau Kam-wing, honorary chairman of trade body the Institute of Dining Professionals, said business in the catering sector dropped 20 to 30 per cent compared with the same period in previous years.

He said those who travelled elsewhere had stronger consumption power than those who remained in the city.

Yau appealed to the government to offer more support, such as more consumption vouchers to be used during holidays or in the evenings.

“Many residents think products and services are cheaper and better across the border than in Hong Kong, while we are losing our advantages,” he told a radio programme on Tuesday. “We must think of ways to maintain Hong Kong’s status as a gourmet paradise.”

Leung Fong-yuen, chairwoman of the Federation of Hong Kong Trade Unions in Tourism, highlighted on the same programme that Easter was not a public holiday on the mainland.

She said she expected that the number of visitors during the Labour Day “golden week” holiday next month would better reflect the city’s tourism position.

Hong Kong malls offer free parking as 541,000 people leave city for Easter break

Assistant professor Johnson Chan Chung-shing of the Chinese University of Hong Kong attributed the trend to the improved transport infrastructure that made trips to Shenzhen and other mainland bay area cities easier.

“The shift may reflect a broader trend of Hong Kong residents seeking travel experiences and exploring destinations outside the city,” he said.

“This trend may continue beyond the current economic cycle as preferences and behaviour evolve, which could lead to a sustained northbound shift, especially during long weekends or holiday breaks.”

Chan stressed the need for policymakers to closely monitor changes in travel patterns and consumer behaviour so they could better tackle the problem.

He said strategies to promote domestic tourism and support city businesses, as well the diversification of city attractions, could help make the city more appealing to different groups of people.

Additional reporting by Kahon Chan