Organizers of Hong Kong’s biggest travel fair report that while inbound tourism to Hong Kong has suffered from the political protests, Hong Kong’s outbound travel market has remained resilient.
TKS Exhibition Services, which organizes the International Travel Expo in Hong Kong, said Hong Kong residents made 1.7 percent more departures in the three-month period from July to September, compared with the same period last year.
Specifically, departures rose 2.3 percent in July to eight million, dropped marginally (0.1 percent) in August and rebounded 3 percent to 7.5 million in September.
In total, 23 million departures were made from July to September. Interestingly, the protests saw a bit more Hong Kong residents swopping land vacations for cruising as seen from a 0.8 percent drop in departures at the airport but a 0.5 percent increase in departures at the cruise terminal during the period. TKS said it based the figures on data taken from Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics or Hong Kong Travel Industry Council.
Luxury travel company Quintessentially Travel in Hong Kong told Skift the protests have not made a difference. “There might be more staycations since most of the five-star hotels in Hong Kong have lowered their prices, but our business is doing well. There’s a lot, a lot more travel to Japan,” said Quintessentially Travel’s head of sales Eldi Lau.
Diethelm Travel Hong Kong’s managing director Richard Willis said the major outbound wholesalers in Hong Kong are seeing Japan and Taiwan remaining popular with Hong Kong travelers. “The cruise market is also getting more popular, with a great choice of promotional offers,” said Willis.
“From what the wholesalers are saying, Hong Kong residents are taking shorter trips of two to three days particularly to parts of the Greater Bay Area and southern China by high-speed rail, as well as nearby destinations such as Taiwan and secondary cities in Japan with an increasing demand for low-cost carriers.”
According to TKS, which compiled figures from official destination websites, Japan saw a spectacular 23 percent growth of arrivals from Hong Kong in September, bringing the third-quarter total to 562,970. Other winners are Thailand, which saw a 3 percent rise in Hong Kong visitors in the first nine months, and Australia, a 3 percent rise to 232,300 Hong Kong travelers.
Hong Kong residents are avid travelers, and the protests that have been going on for six months had earlier worried destinations such as Thailand that receive good numbers from the market.
According to TKS, the size of Hong Kong outbound market was around 7.4 million people in 2018, but its spending was high at $26.5 billion.
“A quality market, Hong Kong’s per capita outbound spending in 2018 averaged $3,580, way above that of Australia at around $1,500, UK at $1,150, and Germany at $1,140,” said the company in a statement.
It said it would continue to hold the expo next year. Always held in mid-June, the show combines trade and public days. TKS said its show this year, held amid protests, drew 11,613 buyers and visitors in the two trade days, 11 percent from overseas and 26 percent from China, mainly Guangdong in south China. The two public days saw 73,665 visitors, “largely quality FIT [free independent travelers].” More than 87 percent of exhibitors were from overseas, aiming to woo the locals, with Japan fielding 80 booths.
“The convention centers of Hong Kong, HKCEC [Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center] and AWE [Asia World Expo] are accessible and fully operational. Evidently convention centers and international exhibitions not target of protests,” it said.