‘Beijing to make it easier for solo travellers from mainland China to visit Hong Kong’

Beijing could allow more mainland Chinese tourists to visit Hong Kong by expansion of its solo traveller scheme as it “responds proactively” to the city government’s request for more cross-border tourists, the Post has learned.

The news on Wednesday from a government source came after No 2 official Eric Chan Kwok-ki said at the weekend the city was in talks with mainland authorities on widening the scheme to allow more residents of second- and third-tier cities to visit Hong Kong, with the possibility of a multiple-entry arrangement.

The scheme allows people from some mainland cities to visit Hong Kong for leisure on an individual basis.

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Mainland tourists have the reputation of being big spenders because of their fondness for the city’s wide range of luxury goods and duty-free shopping.

Tourists pack the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront over the Lunar New Year holiday. Photo: Jelly Tse

But they are now said to be looking for budget experiences instead of splashing out on high-end goods after the end of coronavirus restrictions and the reopening of the border.

That has meant city sectors dependent on tourism are still yet to see the expected economic benefits of their return, despite a resurgence in the number of mainland visitors over the Lunar New Year holiday.

Hong Kong recorded a total of about 1.43 million tourist arrivals between February 10 and 17, with 1.25 million – 87 per cent – from the mainland, city leader John Lee Ka-chiu said on Tuesday.

Hong Kong to get more than 1 million mainland China tourists over Lunar New Year

Lee added that about 157,000 mainland visitors came to the city every day over the Lunar New Year break, higher than the figure for the same period in pre-pandemic 2018.

Peter Shiu Ka-fai, the Liberal Party chairman and who represents the retail sector, said that if more mainland cities were included in the solo traveller scheme, it would help the economy as spending by residents was limited.

“If our capacity is capable, the more tourists we get, the help to our economy would be very large,” he said.

“This does not only apply to retail, food and beverage – even other industries would see this effect.”

Extended hours at mainland China border ease Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year travel woes

The solo traveller scheme was introduced in 2003 as part of Beijing’s support for Hong Kong as it struggled with an economic downturn amid the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The scheme was a shot in the arm for the economy, but it fuelled cross-border tension and social problems in the city.

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