Mainland visitors spent an estimated HK$170 billion (US$21.93 billion) in Hong Kong last year, generating one-third of the city’s retail income for 2013, Ming Pao Daily News reported Thursday, citing a Legislative Council report.
The mainland contribution is a five-fold increase on the HK$27 billion reported back in 2004 soon after the solo travel scheme was launched. A decade ago, solo mainland travellers spent HK$8.62 billion but last year the total was HK$100 billion, the biggest increase in spending by any group of visitors during the period.
Legislator Claudia Mo expressed concern that the solo scheme is making Hong Kong overly reliant on tourist spending, with city retailers risking the loss of one-third of their income if the scheme is put on hold for any reason, such as an epidemic.
Legislator Yiu Si-wing, from the tourism functional constituency, said he was stunned by the figures and the public should be aware of the job losses and other consequences of limiting the scheme.
Hong Kong had 54.3 million visitors in 2013, of whom 75 percent were from the mainland. Mainland visitors under the solo visit scheme made up 67.4 percent of the mainland tourist total. Cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and personal care items were the mainland tourists’ favorite purchases.
The number of stores selling cosmetics and personal care items grew by 15 times from 2004 to 2013, while the average rent rose 70 percent, forcing many smaller household product stores to fold.
Spending by local residents and non-mainland tourists in Hong Kong grew moderately in the decade, up from HK$152.7 billion in 2004 to HK$305 billion last year, accounting for 62 percent of total consumer spending in 2013, compared with nearly 80 percent back in 2004.
Legislator James Tien said Hong Kong’s domestic spending resulted in limited economic growth, and the retail industry could only expand through greater development of the tourism industry and increased tourist spending, the report said.
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