Kong visitor arrivals in December 2004 reached 2,085,127, the highest single-month total on
achievement represents a 16.3% growth on the December 2003 total of 1.79 million, which itself set new records at the time.
The strong December performance took total arrivals for 2004 to 21,810,630, comfortably outstripping the Hong Kong Tourism Board's
(HKTB) forecast of 21.36 million and improving by nearly one
third on the previous annual record of 16.57 million, achieved in 2002. Overall growth for the year was 40.4% compared with 2003, when Hong Kong was badly affected
by the impact of Sars in the second quarter of the year.
All long- and short-haul market regions showed double-digit growth on their 2003 performances and all but Taiwan achieved growth over 2002. While overnight leisure
arrivals from Taiwan have shown healthy recovery during the year, the number of same-day in-town visitors has fallen as business people travelling between Taiwan
and the Mainland via Hong Kong can now take advantage of a growing number of direct ferries from Hong Kong International Airport’s SkyPier to Pearl River Delta
destinations, without having to pass through Hong Kong immigration.
Many of Hong Kong’s key source markets achieved their best-ever figures during 2004, including Mainland China, the United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea,
Singapore, Malaysia and India, as well as the smaller markets of New Zealand, the Netherlands and South Africa. In addition, arrivals from the United Kingdom were their
highest since the landmark year of 1996, when British pre-Handover interest in visiting Hong Kong was at its peak.
A major boost to December arrivals was the HKTB’s staging of Hong Kong WinterFest, which was successful in attracting more family visitors from around the region
and boosting their spending. During the 38-day WinterFest period from 26 November to 2 January, some 2.55 million arrivals were recorded, nearly 17% more than for
the same mega-event in 2003/4.
HKTB Executive Director Clara Chong said that the 2004 results had exceeded everyone’s best expectations and were testament to Hong Kong’s continued strong
appeal as a destination in the face of ever-growing competition. “Given the rapid recovery that we saw in the second half of 2003 and the momentum generated by our
‘Hong Kong – Live it, Love it!’ campaign, we were always confident of making further good progress in 2004,” she commented.
“Nevertheless, when we set our initial target of more than 20 million visitors, we had not imagined that such remarkable, all-round growth could be achieved, with almost
all markets bouncing back from the challenges of 2003 to surpass their 2002 levels, and so many notching up their best results ever.”
Indeed the tourism industry had scarcely looked back since the start of the year, Ms Chong noted, with every month’s arrivals setting a new high for that month. “In July,
which is normally a quieter month of the year, we surpassed the previous best result by more than 600,000. In August, we achieved two million arrivals in a single month
for the first time. Then the 20 million arrivals landmark was reached by early December. It has truly been a record-breaking year.”
Especially encouraging, she added, was the strong performance of all three long-haul market regions. “Although Mainland China has been, and will continue to be, a
major driver of growth, we remain committed to achieving a balanced portfolio of visitors from all markets worldwide, in keeping with Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan image
and its standing as Asia’s world city.”
Ms Chong explained that it would take a while longer to make accurate assessments as to what impact, if any, the Indian Ocean tsunamis would have on travel to and
within Asia in the coming months. “We are confident, though, of seeing continued healthy growth in arrivals during 2005, especially in the second half of the year when
the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland and Hong Kong Wetland Park will further boost the family travel and business-cum-leisure segments,” she said. “We hope to
announce a detailed 2005 forecast in late February.”
Analysis by Markets, December and January to December 2004
Mainland China continued to be the leading source of visitors to Hong Kong in 2004, with arrivals passing 10 million for the first time to reach 12,245,862, 44.6% growth
on the 2003 figure. This includes 1,146,013 (+12.2%) in December, the sixth time in the year that Mainland arrivals exceeded one million in a month.
A key factor in boosting growth during 2004 was the progressive extension of the Individual Visitor Scheme (IVS) in the first half of the year. Since 1 July, some 158
million resident permit holders of 32 cities in southern and eastern China have been eligible to come to Hong Kong under this scheme. During 2004, 4.26 million arrivals,
34.8% of the total, were recorded under IVS, including 483,019 (42.1% of the total) in December. Because IVS has made it easier for Mainland residents to make frequent
trips, however, especially those from Guangdong, average per capita spending figures and average length of stay for 2004 are expected to show a decrease.
Nevertheless, the increased total volume of arrivals should ensure that total visitor spending continues to show healthy growth.
Arrivals from South & Southeast Asia passed two million in a year for the first time, reaching 2,077,684 (+52.8% compared with 2003) and giving this region the new
distinction of becoming Hong Kong’s second largest source market. December’s arrivals were the region’s highest ever in a single month at 247,988 (+30.5%), with the
Hong Kong WinterFest activities proving a popular draw among family travellers. Some highly attractive air fares and travel packages also helped increase arrivals,
especially from Singapore and the Philippines. During 2004, Singapore (463,920 arrivals, +74.6%), Malaysia (339,709, +62.8%) and India (244,364, +37.2%) all achieved
their best performance ever, Singapore’s previous record of 450,569 arrivals having stood since 2000.
Relatively slower growth in Taiwan during 2004 saw this region slip narrowly into third place with a total of 2,074,795 arrivals (+12.0%). Encouragingly, though, December
saw monthly arrivals move back into positive growth (183,527, +5.6%) for the first time since June, with the HKTB’s extensive promotions of Hong Kong Winterfest
helping to drive family travel. Leisure traffic has been steadingly increasing in the second half of the year and this is now offsetting the fall in same-day in-town business
visitors, who are increasingly taking advantage of the direct ferry services from SkyPier to Pearl River Delta destinations.
Arrivals from North Asia saw 34.8% growth over the year to 1,665,440, spearheaded by an excellent performance from South Korea (539,190, +46.4%) which breaks a
record dating back to 1996. Arrivals from Japan (1,126,250, +29.9%) saw slower growth, especially in the early part of the year, but gained momentum following the
HKTB’s launch in May of a booster campaign called Hong Kong Shinhakken (Finding the New Hong Kong), which highlighted some of city’s lesser known “hidden
treasures”. In December, monthly arrivals from North Asia reached their highest of the year at 174,770 (+34.3%).
In the long-haul markets, The Americas regained its place as the leading market region with total 2004 arrivals of 1,399,572 (+51.2%), beating the previous record of 1.35
million set in 2002. Both the United States (1,051,696, +53.8%) and Canada (273,925, +46.6%) also broke their 2002 record high totals. A “Hong Kong Month” promotion
by the HKTB in May, followed up by a further campaign in the autumn and various co-operative promotions with trade and media partners, helped keep Hong Kong high
in the minds of US travellers, while another positive factor in the Canadian market was the strong value of the Canadian dollar. December is generally a quieter month for
visitors to Hong Kong from The Americas but this year saw encouraging growth of 24.5% to 121,073 arrivals.
Europe, Africa & the Middle East finished hot on the heels of The Americas with 1,379,992 arrivals (+45.8%) in 2004, including 108,078 (+14.2%) in December. The United
Kingdom was this region’s star performer during the year, with its 411,287 arrivals (+46.2%) being the highest since 1996. The HKTB’s increased use of direct consumer
promotions, including the cost-effective medium of local radio, has paid off handsomely in this market, which has also benefited from extra flights on the busy London –
Hong Kong route. Germany (169,661, +45.1%) and France (148,131, +54.6%) showed slower recovery early on but were boosted in the second half of the year by the
strong value of the euro; Germany has now almost regained its 2002 levels and France has already done so. The Netherlands, though a smaller market, recorded its
best-ever performance with 72,248 arrivals (+51.3%). So too did the Middle East (91,030, +36.6%) and South Africa (54,371, +85.7%).
Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific, though the smallest of HKTB’s seven market regions, showed the highest growth rate of them all in 2004 with 57.8% increase to
483,247 arrivals, breaking the previous record of 425,322 set in 1996. Both Australia (408,940 arrivals, +60.8%) and New Zealand (71,742, +48.0%) also broke their old
records dating back to 2000 and 1996 respectively. Hong Kong is not only a popular primary destination in these markets but also a favoured
stopover for travellers between Australasia and Europe, and increased flights on these routes helped further boost traffic in the latter part of the year, as did favourable exchange rates. In
addition, special packages and promotions built around HKTB mega-events like Hong Kong Shopping Festival have been extensively marketed in this long-haul region
for the first time, with great success. December arrivals from the region were the highest on record, passing 50,000 for the first time to reach 50,689 (+46.0%).
Same-Day In-Town Visitors
During 2004, 62.6% of all visitors stayed one night or longer, a small increase on the 62.3% who did so in 2003. The remaining 37.4% were classified as “same-day
in-town” visitors, departing for another destination on the same day as arrival, a trend reflecting Hong Kong’s increasing importance as a regional transport hub.
Most long-haul visitors stay one night or more, including 79.2% of 2004 arrivals from Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, 78.0% from The Americas and 75.0% from
Europe, Africa and the Middle East. All these figures showed improvement on the 2003 results. Encouragingly, the number of overnight visitors from South & Southeast
Asia also increased to 74.5% of total arrivals and from North Asia to 64.2%. On the other hand, the percentage of overnight visitors from the Mainland fell slightly from
67.2% in 2003 to 63.6% in 2004 as the Individual Visit Scheme has made it more convenient for Guangdong residents to make same-day trips to shop or visit friends and
Taiwan has always provided the highest number of same-day in-town visitors, as many travellers from this market are in transit to or from the Mainland and other
regional destinations. However, the proportion who stayed overnight grew from 21.8% in 2003 to 26.4% in 2004, reflecting the fact that many former same-day in-town
travellers now use the SkyPier facility and do not pass through Hong Kong immigration at all.
The average occupancy rate across all categories of hotels and tourist guest houses reached 91% in December and 88% for the whole of 2004 – both figures the highest
since 1996. This is a significant improvement on the 2003 performance when the hotel industry was badly affected by the impact of
All categories of accommodation benefited from the strong recovery in 2004, with the top tariff hotels averaging 84% (2003: 67%) and those in the second and third tiers
reaching 89%. Hotels on Hong Kong Island outside the main Central to Causeway Bay corridor averaged 90% occupancy over the year, as did those in Yau Ma Tei and
The average achieved hotel room rate across all hotel categories and districts in 2004 was HK$803, a 19% improvement on the 2003 figure of HK$674 and nearly 13%
improvement on 2002.
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