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Hong Kong's Visitor Arrivals for October 2003 sets new Monthly Record

Travel News Asia 26 November 2003

The number of visitor arrivals in Hong Kong during October 2003 was the highest ever recorded for a single month, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) said today. Total arrivals of 1,695,633 showed a 7.0% growth on the October 2002 figure of 1.58 million, and were more than 27,000 ahead of the previous monthly record of nearly 1.67 million, achieved in December 2002.

The performance was boosted by strong arrivals from Mainland China during the National Day "Golden Week" holiday at the beginning of October. The HKTB's recent series of mega-events has helped stimulate interest in visiting Hong Kong and many Mainland residents joined special packages to see the Hong Kong International Musical Fireworks Competition on 5 and 12 October. In total, there were 878,581 Mainland arrivals in October, a 31.2% growth on the same month in 2002.

Despite the record breaking performance, the October results show that the recovery is still taking its time to be seen across all markets worldwide, especially the long haul markets from where the major travel season is yet to come, and Japan which is always a very health sensitive market. Nevertheless, arrivals from both Japan and Europe showed a continued trend of improvement on the August and September figures. And arrivals from India, boosted by the Diwali holiday period, strengthened further with 9.8% growth.

HKTB Executive Director Clara Chong noted that October was traditionally one of the peak months for both business and leisure travel to Hong Kong. "Last year's October total of 1.58 million arrivals was at that time the highest we had ever had, reflecting a very strong performance across all markets," she explained. "Therefore it is quite an achievement to have surpassed that by 7% this year. However, we have to recognise that the same all-round market strength has not yet been regained in the wake of SARS. We cannot expect to see a full recovery across all markets until mid-2004."

Cumulatively, arrivals for the first ten months of 2003 now stand at 9.5% down compared with the same period in 2002, due to the four consecutive months of substantial negative growth from April to July when Hong Kong received 2.34 million fewer visitors than in 2002. Due to the strong October result, however, the cumulative growth deficit has been narrowed to a single-digit figure for the first time since April.

Analysis by Markets, October and January-October 2003

The 878,581 arrivals from Mainland China in October represent the second highest total recorded from the Mainland in a single month, surpassed only by the 946,122 arrivals in August 2003. The figure includes 147,594 visitors travelling under the new individual visa scheme, from the 10 cities where it has so far come into operation. Cumulatively, arrivals from the Mainland over the first 10 months of 2003 now show 21.2% growth compared with the same period in 2002.

After the Mainland, the highest number of arrivals in October came from Taiwan with 196,983 arrivals (-8.6%), followed by South & Southeast Asia with 159,661 (-6.2%). Elsewhere among the short haul markets, North Asia contributed 119,011 arrivals (-19.8%), which in growth rate terms indicates a continuing trend of improvement from the -28.8% recorded in August and -21.2% in September.

In the long haul markets, Europe, Africa & the Middle East was the strongest October performer with 150,017 arrivals (-6.3%), a big improvement on the 91,056 (-8.2%) recorded in September. Arrivals from The Americas also increased in number to 117,982, but were 16.1% down relative to their strong performance in October 2002. Arrivals from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific were 6.6% down at 36,588, although New Zealand showed positive growth for the second month in a row.

Same-Day Visitors

In October 2003, 38.5% of all visitors continued to other destinations on the same day as arrival, compared with 37.7% for the same month in 2002.

Many of those who depart on the same day as arrival are business people from Taiwan, travelling via Hong Kong to or from other destinations in Southern China. In October, only 22.4% of all Taiwan visitors stayed for one night or longer. In contrast, 77.4% of visitors from The Americas stayed for at least one night, as did 75.4% of those from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific and 69.6% from Europe, Africa & the Middle East.

For the first ten months of 2003 to date, 61.6% of all visitors have stayed for one night or longer, compared with 64.2% who did so in the same period in 2002.

Hotel Occupancy

Average occupancy rate across all categories of hotels and tourist guest houses in October was 85%, the same as for October 2002. As October is a strong month for business travel and trade fairs, top tariff hotels and those in the prime locations were some of the strongest beneficiaries. High Tariff A hotels averaged 86% occupancy while hotels in Central and Admiralty were the busiest in October with a 91% occupancy rate. The average achieved room rate across all hotels strengthened to HK$919, although this is 2.0% lower than in October 2002.

Cumulatively, occupancy for the first ten months of 2003 now stands at 66%, compared with 83% for the same period in 2002, primarily due to the severe impact of SARS on the hotel industry in April, May and June, when average occupancy dropped to as low as 18%.

See also: Hong Kong Tourism revival continues with 7.9% growth in September 2003

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