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Hong Kong Visitor Arrivals show 28% growth in March 2004

Travel News Asia 3 May 2004

Visitor arrivals to Hong Kong in March 2004 totalled 1,732,326, growth of 28.6% on the same month in 2003, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) announced today.

All long- and short-haul markets recorded positive growth for the month. Arrivals from Mainland China continue to show the strongest growth, increasing 47.0% in March in the wake of a steadily rising number of individual travellers, and more than doubling the March 2002 figure. Comparison with the 2002 figures also indicates that arrivals from Europe and Australia are now ahead of pre-Sars levels while those from The Americas and Southeast Asia are nearing a full recovery. Overall, the March 2004 arrivals are 33.5% above those for March 2002.

HKTB Executive Director Clara Chong noted that the Board would be benchmarking its arrivals data against 2002 figures over the next few months to provide a more accurate indication of performance. "Last year arrivals in April, May and June fell to their lowest levels in 12 years as a result of Sars, so we are going to record some quite dramatic growth rates using the normal year-on-year comparison," she explained.

"We can see from the 2002 comparisons that the picture is generally quite encouraging, with most markets now recovered close to or above pre-Sars levels," she observed. "However, there are still many uncertainties that could slow down the recovery momentum, especially now that Sars has resurfaced in northern China. Japan remains our most difficult challenge and it is likely to take some time before we can regain the full confidence of that market."

For the first quarter of 2004 overall, arrivals from all markets have reached 4,935,200, growth of 14.7% compared with the same period in 2003 and 37.3% compared with that of 2002.

Analysis by Markets, March and 1st Quarter 2004

Once again, Mainland China was the top performing market in March with 979,338 arrivals, an increase of 47.0% on the same month in 2003 and a huge 110.5% increase on the 2002 figure. A continued contributor to growth is the popularity of the Individual Visit Scheme, which covered 16 cities in March and has since been extended to seven more with effect from 1 May. A further nine cities will join the scheme from 1 July. In March, 244,988 Mainland visitors arrived as individual travellers, 25.0% of the total. Other factors spurring the expansion of this market include China's continued strong economic growth, additional air capacity as evidenced by Cathay Pacific's new Beijing flights and visitors' added convenience in being able to use renminbi credit cards in Hong Kong.

March arrivals from the Mainland were also boosted by the popularity of the TV series Romancing Hong Kong aired earlier in the year and a consumer roadshow staged by the HKTB in Shanghai, as well as by a number of major trade fairs held in Hong Kong during the month. For the first quarter of 2004, Hong Kong has now welcomed over 2.9 million Mainland visitors, a 37.0% increase on the 2003 figure.

Arrivals from Europe, Africa & the Middle East totalled 126,590 in March, an increase of 19.1% on the March 2003 figure and 11.9% on that of 2002. There was especially encouraging growth from the United Kingdom, boosted by the Rugby Sevens at the end of March. Arrivals from Italy, the Netherlands, the Middle East and South Africa also recorded strong growth. Total arrivals from this market region for the first quarter of 2004 show an increase of 6.6%.

March arrivals from The Americas reached 115,651, an 18.6% increase on the March 2003 figure but 8.1% down on the equivalent figure for 2002, as consumer sentiment for international travel from the United States is taking time to recover in the wake of Middle East tensions. Encouragingly, however, March arrivals from the US grew by 22.7%, while those from Canada recorded more modest growth of 3.1%. For the first quarter of 2004, total arrivals from the region are showing 1.1% growth.

The Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific region recorded 36,752 March arrivals, a 16.5% increase on March 2003 and 0.2% above the 2002 figure. Hong Kong benefited from both increased long-haul stopover traffic and visitors choosing the city as a primary destination. This was also another market to be boosted by strong interest in the Rugby Sevens. For the first quarter of 2004 overall, arrivals stand at 4.0% ahead of those for 2003.

Arrivals from South & Southeast Asia totalled 151,838 in March, which is 28.4% above the March 2003 figure but 1.6% below that for 2002. Malaysia (+46.0%), Thailand (+44.5%), Singapore (+41.8%) and India (+32.1%) were the strongest performers, with several major trade shows in Hong Kong boosting business traffic from these countries. A "two free nights" package offered by Cathay Pacific also attracted more leisure visitors from Singapore. Total arrivals for this region in the first quarter of 2004 now stand at 2.4% above those for 2003.

North Asia continues to show a comparatively slow recovery with 119,882 March arrivals, a 10.4% decrease on the March 2003 figure and 28.6% down on the same month in 2002. Nevertheless, arrivals from South Korea recorded promising growth of 21.9% compared with March 2003 and are now only 3.2% below the pre-Sars levels of March 2002. For the first quarter of 2004 as a whole, arrivals from this region show a 25.6% year-on-year decrease.

Taiwan is taking longer to recover than other neighbouring markets, with outbound travel in March further slowed down as a result of the presidential election. Arrivals for the month totalled 166,438, 2.8% ahead of those for March 2003 but 12.2% below the 2002 figure. Total arrivals from Taiwan in the first quarter are showing a 13.1% decrease compared with those for the same period in 2003.

Same-Day In-Town Visitors

In March 2004, 63.0% of total arrivals stayed for one night or longer, a similar proportion to the 63.7% who did so in March 2003. The remaining 37.0% were classified as "same-day in-town" visitors, departing for another destination on the same day as arrival. Same-day in-town visitors are a growing global tourism trend but Hong Kong is especially affected due to its position as a major regional transport hub and gateway to China.

Most longer-haul visitors stay for one night or more. In March, 80.5% of all visitors from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific, 76.9% from The Americas and 76.1% from Europe, Africa & the Middle East did so, as did 73.7% from South & Southeast Asia.

For the first quarter of 2004 overall, 61.3% of all visitors have stayed for one night or more, compared with 63.2% for the same period in 2003.

Hotel Occupancy

Average occupancy rate across all categories of hotels and tourist guest houses in March was 94%, compared with only 79% in March 2003. Top tariff hotels showed an especially strong improvement, registering 92% occupancy as against 70% a year earlier; major contributory factors included a number of major trade fairs staged in Hong Kong during the month and the Rugby Sevens, both of which attract many high spending visitors. The strong performance was also seen across all different hotel locations, with those on Hong Kong Island outside the main Central to Causeway Bay tourist corridor attaining 97% average occupancy. The average achieved hotel room rate was HK$791, an 11.8% year-on-year increase.

For the first quarter of 2004, average occupancy rate now stands at 84%, compared with 81% for the same period in 2003, while average achieved hotel room rate is HK$740, a 5.1% increase.

See also: Hong Kong reports February 2004 Visitor Arrival Figures

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