More mainland Chinese cities may join solo traveller scheme if Hong Kong can handle latest additions, industry leader says after meeting Xia

Sources earlier told the Post that tourists from Harbin and other cities in Heilongjiang province would be added to the scheme in the next phase.

Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Xia Baolong (centre) is visiting the city on a fact-finding mission. Photo: Eugene Lee

Industry chief Wong was among those who met Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), on Friday.

Beijing’s point man on Hong Kong affairs arrived in the city last Thursday to conduct a fact-finding mission. He will depart on Wednesday.

Wong said one of Xia’s team who specialised in economic development had told attendees that central authorities would gauge how Hong Kong managed the coming expansion of the solo traveller scheme, including the impact on local residents.

“From [his wording] during the conversation, I believe Beijing will open up more cities soon,” he said. “[Xian and Qingdao] are the testing spots. If Hong Kong operates smoothly, there will be more cities opening up.”

Wong also expected cities in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia would be added.

“The per capita spending among tourists in 2023 fell. But if we have more tourists in the future, even if their buying power is not that strong, more of them in the end might help to boost catering and retail business,” he said.

The federation president added that visitors from such mainland cities were more likely to stay overnight in Hong Kong given the greater travel distance involved.

Hong Kong had the capacity to welcome more tourists from Xian and Qingdao as a sudden uptick in visitors from the two cities was not expected this year, he said.

Touching on Friday’s high-profile meeting with business leaders, Wong said Xia was joined by three HKMAO deputy directors and six of the office’s bureau-level officials, who all oversaw Hong Kong’s economy and promotion-related work.

What is the newly expanded solo traveller scheme and how will Hong Kong benefit?

Wong also said mainland tourists had developed a preference for cultural and in-depth experiences, while Guangdong cuisine was considered a delicacy to those visiting from inner cities on the mainland.

“I hope the catering and tourism sector and the [Hong Kong] Tourism Board can design more package activities to attract these tourists,” he said, adding talks on the subject were already in progress.

Hong Kong Retail Management Association chairwoman Annie Tse Yau On-yee also echoed Wong’s expectation that Xian and Qingdao’s addition to the scheme was just the first step.

She added that the initial impact of the change-up would not be significant since the policy did not “start from zero”.

“If [Beijing] tried and thought it was feasible since Hong Kong’s affordability is OK, we hope it may open up more cities,” she said.

Hong Kong leader welcomes move to expand solo traveller scheme to Xian, Qingdao

The association chairwoman said long-haul travellers from Xian and Qingdao could help overnight businesses since they had to fly to Hong Kong to get there.

Tse also said mainland tourists were now more focused on exploring Hong Kong’s cultural offerings rather than shopping, with goods in the city being “comparatively expensive” as the local currency had become stronger.

The Individual Visit Scheme from early March will cover 15 mainland cities, including first-tier locations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Chongqing.

The policy was introduced for four Guangdong cities in 2003 under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between the mainland and Hong Kong.


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