2022 RT Banner.gif

China Daily

News> Hong Kong> Content
Published: 20:52, February 06, 2023
Full border reopening a shot in the arm for HK business sectors
By Su Zihan
Published:20:52, February 06, 2023 By Su Zihan

People arrive at the Lok Ma Chau Control Point in Hong Kong before traveling to neighboring Shenzhen, South China, Jan 8, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The full border reopening between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Chinese mainland will give Hong Kong’s tourism and retail sectors a shot in the arm, but challenges remain for those industries to bounce back to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, officials and industry players said.

The two sides resumed cross-border travel on Monday for the first time in three years, with daily cross-border travel quotas and COVID-19 testing requirements dropped and all the checkpoints reopened. Vaccine requirements for overseas arrivals have also been lifted.

“Hong Kong is finally free from the haze of the pandemic. It is a long-awaited and exciting news for Hong Kong’s tourism industry that the city has resumed quarantine-free travel with the Chinese mainland and overseas,” said tourism sector lawmaker Perry Yiu Pak-leung. “It is a major boost to the revival of the travel industry.”

However, he noted that there is still a long way before the sector can return to pre-pandemic days. Hong Kong recorded about HK$490,000 ($62,430) in levy income from outbound travel services in January, 20 percent of the pre-pandemic level. The average number of visitor arrivals in Hong Kong stood at 20,000 per day since the first stage of the border reopening on Jan 8, only 10 percent of the level before the pandemic, according to Yiu.

It is hard to estimate when the number of visitors will return to the pre-pandemic level, as travelers from all over the world may have changed their travel habits during the three-year pandemic.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, secretary for culture, sports and tourism

“Restoring the accommodation and operating capacity of Hong Kong’s tourism is a process full of challenges, as the industry still faces various difficulties such as recruitment of staff and capital investment,” he said.

ALSO READ: Full travel resumption is big step to everyday life

The lawmaker said he hopes the SAR government can introduce measures in the upcoming Budget to be announced on Feb 22 to help revitalize the industry, given the industry’s key role in boosting the local economy.

“It is hard to estimate when the number of visitors will return to the pre-pandemic level, as travelers from all over the world may have changed their travel habits during the three-year pandemic,” said Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the secretary for culture, sports and tourism.

Based on the experience of other places, he said it would take a year for the number of visitors to recover to 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions for inbound travelers.

Passengers check in at an HK Express counter at the Hong Kong International Airport on Dec 28, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)

Fred Lam Tin-fuk, CEO of Airport Authority Hong Kong, said he expects the number of travelers at Hong Kong International Airport to bounce back to 80 percent of the pre-pandemic level by the end of this year, and that it could take 18 months to two years for a full recovery.

Hong Kong airport is currently recording 70,000 to 80,000 passengers per day, 40 percent of the pre-pandemic level.

Despite conservative estimates of recovery progress across the sectors, industry players in Hong Kong are upbeat over the business outlook and are making preparations to embrace the growing number of visitors and consumers.

Martin Yim, founder of Imperial Enterprises Holdings, the company behind Imperial Patisserie, one of Hong Kong’s leading mooncake brands, said he expects a 10 to 15 percent increase in the company’s business in the initial stage of the quarantine-free cross-border travel.

READ MORE: Lo Wu springs back to life

The company hired 45 percent more people than usual to cope with busy sales during the Lunar New Year holiday period. “We expect to see more tourists from the Chinese mainland coming to Hong Kong to experience our products after the full border reopening,” he said, forecasting sales to rise by 50 percent in the longer term.

With many of Imperial Enterprises’ stores located in major shopping malls in commercial and tourist areas, such as The Peak Galleria, Plaza Hollywood, and Olympian City, Yim said that the company will join shopping malls in offering special discounts to visitors.

Contact the writer at suzihan@chinadailyhk.com

Share this story

Please click in the upper right corner to open it in your browser !