“Multiple-entry permit” has become an ugly term in Hong Kong, where it is associated with parallel traders who come in and out of the territory to transport milk powder and other goods several times everyday.
Now there’s a new form of multiple entry that may be more welcome in the city.
We’re talking of Cathay Pacific’s latest promotion for tourists from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.
It’s a “one-day trip to Hong Kong” with a return ticket costing only 21,000 yen (HK$1,350, excluding tax) and an even cheaper 36,000 yen (HK$2,317, excluding tax) for two one-day trips.
The individual visitor scheme will allow Japanese visitors to travel on a midnight flight, arriving in Hong Kong early in the morning and returning to Japan before sunset or midnight.
So Hong Kong and Japan have never been closer.
Despite the short stay, Japanese will find enough time for a morning dim sum at Luk Yu Teahouse in Central before a climb to the Peak, then a shopping tour at Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, and, if time still allows, a relaxing foot massage.
Given that Japanese are among the most polite people in the world, I’m sure we won’t mind if they bring more of their goodies to the city, and take our products with them. But I’m not sure if they can handle well the trolley groups on Canton Road.
Hong Kong has seen a rapid decline in Japanese tourists. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, their numbers have fallen for three consecutive months since November.
Arrivals from Japan fell 11 percent to 92,000 in December, and went down further to 82,000 in January.
Because of our strong greenback-pegged currency, Japanese visitors have to spend at least 10 percent more in coming to Hong Kong. That explains Cathay’s low-priced fares for Japanese travelers.
On the other hand, there’s a big surge of Hong Kong visitors to Japan as they take advantage of the weak yen.
Japan has always been the No. 1 destination for many Hongkongers. So the cheap yen only provides an all-season excuse for those wishing to see — again — the country’s lovely sakuras, lavenders, red leaves and snow.
Because of the full outbound capacity (who can sell me two seats to Osaka over Easter?), it is understandable why CX offers cheap tickets for Japanese going to Hong Kong.
If this Japanese individual visitor scheme proves successful, it could become a model for similar programs for tourists from other regional markets such as Singapore and South Korea — and help ease the tensions coming from the multiple-entry permits granted to mainlanders.
Of course, it won’t cure much of the frustrations suffered by Hong Kong people nowadays. Which is why as the city’s flag carrier, Cathay should offer the same cut-price tickets to Hong Kong people wishing to visit Japan.
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