Published: 13:09, February 21, 2024 | Updated: 13:09, February 21, 2024
Spring Festival tourist arrivals beat 2018 level
By Gary Chiu in Hong Kong

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu speaks to the media ahead of an Executive Council meeting on Feb 20, 2024. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

About 1.44 million travelers visited Hong Kong during the Spring Festival holiday from Feb 10 through Saturday, with 1.26 million — or 87 percent of the total — coming from the Chinese mainland, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday.

Speaking to the media before the first Executive Council meeting in the Year of the Dragon, the chief executive expressed his optimism and highlighted positive signs at the beginning of the new year.

During the eight-day holiday, an average of 157,000 mainland visitors arrived in Hong Kong daily, exceeding the 2018 level. It also represents a rise of 15 and 25 percent compared with the National Day and the May Day holidays in 2023 respectively, Lee said.

The hotel sector’s figures showed that hotel occupancy reached 80 percent on average, with figures in the first few days of the holiday reaching 90 percent, and some remote area hotels being fully booked on the night of the Lunar New Year fireworks display

The city welcomed about 1,980 mainland tour groups, averaging 200 per day compared with 170 in 2019, he said.

The hotel sector’s figures showed that hotel occupancy reached 80 percent on average, with figures in the first few days of the holiday reaching 90 percent, and some remote area hotels being fully booked on the night of the Lunar New Year fireworks display.

ALSO READ: CE: 1.44 million visited HK during Spring Festival holiday

Overnight visitors stayed in the city for an average of 3.6 days in 2023, a 16 percent increase from the pre-pandemic period.

Lee acknowledged a long-time trend of outbound travelers exceeding inbound visitors during the holidays, as residents enjoyed traveling outside Hong Kong, especially during the extended breaks.

“The average ratio of outbound and inbound travelers is about 1.5-2.5 to 1. The figure has been higher after the end of the pandemic last year due to the pent-up demand for outbound traveling,” he said.

Cross-boundary travel between the mainland and Hong Kong had become a norm with the city’s integration with other cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, he added.

ALSO READ: HK sees 1.26m mainland visitors during Spring Festival

Participants take part in the International Lunar New Year Parade on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Dragon in Hong Kong, on Feb 10, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

Mega event economy

Lee further discussed the return of various mega events, which had been held in other places because of the pandemic, such as the APLF Leather & Materials+, Fashion Access, which took place in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, in 2022. 

A number of cultural events will be held in the city for the first time, including KCON and ComplexCon.

The role of the government is like a movie director. Various sectors and practitioners have a role to play in offering quality services and enjoyable experiences to visitors so that they will stay longer and recommend the city to their friends and relatives.

John Lee Ka-chiu, Chief Executive

Organizers had chosen Hong Kong as the destination, and that decision reflected the advantages of the city, he said.

In the coming month, there will be other large-scale events as well, including Art Basel Hong Kong, the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, and the LIV Golf tournament.

“The role of the government is like a movie director. Various sectors and practitioners have a role to play in offering quality services and enjoyable experiences to visitors so that they will stay longer and recommend the city to their friends and relatives,” Lee said. 

The city should make use of these opportunities to enhance its attractiveness and competitiveness, he added.

READ MORE: CE: Mega events to reinforce HK status as a must-visit global city

Regarding reports that the Singaporean government would offer subsidies for each concert of US pop superstar Taylor Swift in exchange for an exclusive right to hold the concerts in Southeast Asia, the chief executive said the authorities will use different methods to fight for the rights to organize different events and will be happy to work with different organizers.

“We will strive to hold mega events, be it concerts or sports events, to bring economic benefits to Hong Kong and boost the city’s image and competitiveness,” Lee said.