23 October 2016
People queue up to buy tickets at Ocean Park. There have been fewer visitors from neighboring countries of late. Photo: HKEJ
People queue up to buy tickets at Ocean Park. There have been fewer visitors from neighboring countries of late. Photo: HKEJ

Fewer tourists (and a fierce one) are coming on Easter

Easter offers a good break for Hong Kong, especially when it runs along with another local holiday, the Tomb Sweeping Day. That’s five glorious days of no work. 

More outgoing residents and fewer incoming tourists also mean a nice break for the city from the usual congestion. The only crowded places are the mountains, where locals will be worshipping their ancestors during the Ching Ming Festival.

For a change, tourist destinations such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park will greet fewer tourists, as we’ve gathered from their operators.

That’s because Easter, just like Christmas, is not a Chinese holiday — although Qing Ming is. The big wave of tourists from across the border will come in May when they will have their golden holiday.

But we also gather the two parks have not been doing well in the first quarter. In the first five days of the Lunar New Year holiday, the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong slightly fell this year for the first time in nearly 20 years.

One explanation is related to the Occupy Movement. Some tourists, who made advance bookings to their holiday months late last year, decided to go elsewhere because of the 79-day student protests. 

While the student movement remained generally subdued, the sometimes hostile sentiment towards mainland tourists in the city was running high, prompting many of them to look for other destinations where they feel more welcome and secure.

All these might not show up in the visitor numbers compiled by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Arrivals in the first two months were still up 11 percent from a year ago to 11 million, most of which (58 percent) were same-day visitors.

In fact, mainland tourists accounted for 82 percent of the visitors during the period, up from 79 percent a year ago, while those from other parts of the region declined by 6 percent.

Forget Hong Kong’s self-proclaimed title of “Asia’s World City”. Our unfavorable exchange rate, which stems from our currency’s peg to the strong US dollar, also deterred visitors from short-haul markets.

The biggest declines in arrivals during the traditionally peak season were those from Malaysia (-33 percent), Singapore (-21 percent), Japan (-12 percent), Thailand (-12 percent), and Taiwan (-7 percent), according to Tourism Board data.

With a flat first quarter, hopes are high that international tourism — like Jesus — will rise from the dead after Easter. But in case it doesn’t, we think the situation will still be welcomed by many Hong Kong residents, who are increasingly feeling the impact of the influx of tourists on their daily lives.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy a little bit of quiet time during the extended holiday before we get to meet an uninvited visitor — Maysak, this year’s first typhoon — which will probably come next week.

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EJ Insight writer

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