Hong Kong’s leader Leung Chun-ying is believed to have sought opinions Monday from members of the Commission on Strategic Development (CSD) on cutting the quota for the individual visit scheme for mainlanders by 20 percent, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported Tuesday.
CSD members were asked to share views on cutting down on visitors from the mainland, the report said. It is understood that some studies are in progress to determine how many visitors Hong Kong can take, the paper said, adding that there are no conclusions yet.
In 2013, some 27 million mainland tourists came to Hong Kong under the individual visit scheme. If there is a 20 percent cut in the quota, it would bring the figure down by around 5.5 million, taking the total number of mainland tourists back to the level seen in 2012.
Peter Woo, CSD member and chairman of Wharf (Holdings) (0004.HK), and Vincent Fang, legislator of the Wholesale & Retail Functional Constituency, are said to have opposed the suggestion to cut the visitor quota, saying the move would deal a huge blow to the tourism industry.
Other CSD members, however, noted that conflicts between Hong Kong and mainland people have been on the rise as the locals feel their lives have been affected by the large number of inbound tourists.
Solo scheme visitors made up 7.9 percent of the total visitors to Hong Kong in 2003 when the scheme was first introduced. That percentage rose to 67.4 percent last year.
It was estimated that solo scheme visitors have boosted Hong Kong’s gross domestic product by HK$26.1 billion or 1.3 percent in 2012, and helped create over 110,000 jobs.
The number of mainland tourists to Hong Kong has dropped 1.7 percent during the May Day holiday week this year compared to the same period last year. It marked the first decrease since the individual travel scheme was introduced in 2003.
Following the drop in visitor numbers, analysts have slashed share price targets for retailers such as Sasa International Holdings (0178.HK) and Bonjour Holdings (0653.HK). The two cosmetics chains have seen their market values get eroded significantly, with Sasa shedding 36.2 percent in year to date and Bonjour losing 21.9 percent, the report said.
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