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Hong Kong Tourism Board

Hong Kong reports February 2004 visitor arrival figures

A strong performance from all three long-haul markets helped lift visitor arrivals in February 2004…

A strong performance from all three long-haul markets helped lift visitor arrivals in February 2004 to 1,454,486, a 3.3% growth on the equivalent figure for 2003, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) said.

The best result came from Europe, Africa & the Middle East, which saw a 17.0% growth in arrivals to 104,082, while there were also encouraging performances from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific (+12.8%) and The Americas (+9.2%).

Contributing to this growth was the fact that the Lunar New Year fell in January this year, but February in 2003. Business traffic, which accounts for an important share of long-haul arrivals, is always quieter around the Lunar New Year period, and all three long-haul markets saw higher arrivals than last year in February, but correspondingly lower arrivals in January. Nevertheless, this was the highest February total on record, regardless of when the Lunar New Year has fallen.

Taking January and February 2004 together, the long-haul market figures show that Europe, Africa & the Middle East and Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific have almost recovered to pre-Sars levels with -0.5% and -1.9% growth respectively, compared with the first two months of 2003. Meanwhile the gap has significantly narrowed to -7.7% for The Americas. The Lunar New Year effect was also seen in arrivals from Mainland China – a market more strongly driven by leisure travel – which in contrast showed gentler February growth of 15.6%, compared with a surge of 48.5% in January. For the first two months of 2004 combined, Mainland market growth stands at 32.5%.

A number of the other Asian markets, however, were affected by concerns about bird flu, which reduced business and leisure travel across the region. Although Hong Kong has not itself been affected by bird flu, it is a major regional transport hub and therefore the outbreak has still had some impact on visitor arrivals.

HKTB Executive Director Clara Chong said that now both January and February figures were available, a much clearer picture of progress in the ongoing tourism revival campaign was emerging. Generally, the picture is an encouraging one, with Mainland growth remaining strong and the long-haul markets clearly on a positive comeback trend, she commented. However, we still face challenges in restoring some of the other Asian markets to pre-Sars levels, especially Japan. We will be launching a special booster campaign in Japan in the coming weeks, and will continue our strenuous promotional efforts in all the other key markets worldwide.

Analysis by Markets, February 2004

The 824,619 arrivals from Mainland China in February included 203,707 travelling under the individual visa scheme from the 16 cities where it has now come into operation. Given that the previous February included a Mainland Golden Week holiday, the 15.6% year-on-year growth in this market represents a significant achievement.

Arrivals from Taiwan continue to show a slow recovery and were 24.7% down in February at 145,026. Bird flu will have had an impact on this market as Hong Kong is the principal transport hub between Taiwan, Mainland China and other Asian destinations.

In South & Southeast Asia (114,686 arrivals, -3.7%), there were mixed February results with strong performances from India (+31.0%), due in part to increased business travel, and Indonesia (+17.1%), where special-value Cathay Pacific air packages generated a strong response. Other markets, however, were unable to match their 2003 figures, with travel around the region being dampened by bird flu concerns.

In North Asia (107,238 arrivals, -23.5%), South Korea showed continuing steady recovery with a 7.7% shortfall in February, but arrivals from Japan (-29.9%) continued to be affected by low sentiment for travelling in Asia. Growth in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific (30,854, +12.8%) was boosted by an especially strong performance from New Zealand (+22.8%), while Australian arrivals grew 12.0%.

In The AmericasCanada were 4.9% down, due partly to the Lunar New Year effect as many ethnic Chinese residents return to their families in Hong Kong or the Mainland for the festival.

In Europe, Africa & the Middle East (104,082, +17.0%), growth was led by the United Kingdom (+17.1%) and Germany (+16.6%). There were also strong performances from some smaller markets including the Netherlands, the Middle East and South Africa.

Same-Day In-Town Visitors

In February 2004, 61.6% of total arrivals stayed for one night or longer, compared with 63.4% in the same month of 2003. The remaining 38.4% were classified as same-day in-town visitors, departing for another destination on the same day as arrival. Same-day in-town visitors are a growing global tourism trend but Hong Kong is especially affected due to its position as a major regional transport hub and gateway to Mainland China.

The Lunar New Year effect is again likely to have had a bearing on the January and February figures, as leisure visitors are more likely to stay overnight than those travelling in the region for business purposes. For January and February combined, 63.5% of all visitors have stayed for one night or more, compared with only 62.9% during the same period in 2003. Most longer-haul visitors stay for one night or more. In the first two months of 2004, 79.5% of all visitors from Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific, 79.1% from The Americas and 77.2% from Europe, Africa & the Middle East have done so, as have 74.7% from South & Southeast Asia.

Hotel Occupancy

Average occupancy rate across all categories of hotels and tourist guest houses in February was 81%, the same as in February 2003. Because of the stronger focus on business travel, hotels in the Central and Admiralty area recorded 89% average occupancy, compared with only 73% in February 2003.

The average achieved hotel room rate was HK$691, a 2.5% year-on-year increase.

Theodore Koumelis
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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.