27 October 2016
Chinese tourists are experiencing Hong Kong in a lot more ways than shopping. Photo: Bloomberg
Chinese tourists are experiencing Hong Kong in a lot more ways than shopping. Photo: Bloomberg

Mainland golden week visitors up, but where are they?

There is indeed something special about mainland tourists in this golden week holiday.

On paper, there has been a 19 percent increase in the number of mainland tourists to Hong Kong — above market expectations.

Even Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So has been hard pressed to explain.

Yet, we have not seen them in the traditional shopping areas in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

Where are they?

We have a few theories.

Firstly, they are in Sai Kung, Stanley and Lantau Island, traditional expatriate areas.

According to columnist Ko Tin-yau, these areas have been full, with many newly arrived Mandarin-speaking people.

They came for the natural scenic spots, the same reason they would go to Japan for a breath of clean air and convenience.

Thanks to home-sharing website Airbnb, many live in expat homes simply for the experience.

An estimated 30,000 more people were expected to come for the SAT exams in the AsiaWorld Expo.

It’s said many mainland students pick the United States over Hong Kong because the former has more democracy.

That’s right. They leave China for the US for a breath of democracy because politically — to borrow a phase from Lan Kwai Fong chairman Allan Zeman — Hong Kong is stuck.

Secondly, the majority of visitors to Hong Kong are not visitors — they’re travelers transiting Hong Kong to Europe and other long-haul destinations.

In that regard, they don’t offer much benefit to the local economy, although they will soon be subject to an airport levy relating to a third airway.

And now, we have the individual visitor scheme 2.0.

Gone are the days when Chinese damas snapped up everything from a Prada handbag to a bag of milk powder because many of them came here precisely for the experience.

That means drinking with foreigners, visiting iconic movie locations made famous by filmmaker Won Kar-wai, or walking the historic path of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, and kung fu master Bruce Lee.

Mainland visitors can experience a lot of fun in Hong Kong — and a lot of different ways, too.

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EJ Insight writer

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