22 April 2019
Hong Kong International Airport will be busy next week with incoming tourists and outgoing residents. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong International Airport will be busy next week with incoming tourists and outgoing residents. Photo: HKEJ

How Hongkongers can escape ‘Chinese tourist’ label

At this time of the year, you will probably bump into more tourists than residents in Hong Kong, just like in Macau.

The Immigration Department expects 7.88 million travelers to cross the city’s borders between Feb. 17 (two days before the Lunar New Year) and Feb. 25 (the seventh day of the Year of the Sheep), 7.7 per cent more than last year.

Of course, not all of them will be mainlanders flocking into Hong Kong, since many local residents will be leaving the city for a short break during this period.

But there will be more incoming tourists than outgoing residents.

Immigration predicts there will be a peak of about 362,000 people departing Hong Kong Feb. 17 at various land border checkpoints as many residents rush to the mainland for a family reunion.

The number of incoming travelers will reach its peak on Feb. 22 (the fourth day of the new year), when 432,000 people are expected to arrive in Hong Kong.

The situation will be similar in Macau, where 930,000 people are expected pass through the immigration gates in the city of half a million people during the seven-day Lunar Year holiday period this year, the same as last year.

The highlights of the mainlanders’ itineraries in Hong Kong will be old hat to residents – watching the New Year Night Parade on the first day, fireworks on the second day and racing on the third day – on top of gouwu (shopping), of course.

So, it will perhaps be more interesting to know where Hongkongers will spend their Lunar New Year holidays outside the city.

In the past, most people preferred to stay in town for family gatherings: Lunar New Year to the Chinese is like Christmas to the rest of the world.

Those who fear the February cold won’t have that excuse to flee to a warmer place, because this period will mostly be warm, with lovely highs of 20C.

For a change, many people I know will have a white Lunar New Year this year.

Thanks to our currency peg to the ultra-strong US dollar, Hong Kong people are happily enjoying at least a 10 per cent discount on their spending in Japan and most parts of Europe.

One little problem: they will probably meet many mainland tourists, who are increasingly subscribing to the national “going out” strategy and picking up bargains around the globe.

Given their notorious habits of personal behavior and the difficulty of distinguishing Hongkongers from other tourists from China, there is a burning issue as to how Hong Kong travelers can avoid being treated rudely abroad during this happy festival.

Easy. Bring the yellow ribbons or umbrella you displayed with pride in autumn last year.

These will give you the status of an ambassador for Hong Kong in democracy-loving countries, and yes, you will be free to talk as much as you like about Occupy Central without worrying about censorship or demotion and really enjoy your break after a long fight.

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EJ Insight writer

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