Hong Kong Tourism Soars Despite Scandals

HONG KONG ~ The number of mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong soared 24.5 percent during the week-long Labour day holiday despite a string of scandals to recently hit the city’s tourism industry.

The Tourism Commission said numbers from the mainland increased to 355,681 in the first six days of the “Golden Week” holiday, accounting for 61.7 percent of 576,752 arrivals.

Total visitor numbers gained 19.8 percent on the same period last year.

Official figures showed that those traveling in tour groups fell 13.5 percent to 20,996 during the period, while those visiting independently jumped 43.5 percent to 238,442.

The figures come despite fears that mainland visitors could stay away from the territory. Hong Kong’s key tourism industry was left reeling after reports of con merchants preying on mainland Chinese tourists, who last year accounted for almost half the record 25 million visitors.

Authorities have since scrambled to restore the city’s image as a shopping paradise, in part by clamping down on unscrupulous merchants.

Li Gang, of the Chinese central government in Hong Kong, believed such measures helped boost tourist numbers.

“The measures have been effective. I heard good response from the mainland tour groups who came to Hong Kong, especially during this Golden week. They believe that Hong Kong’s tourist services have improved,” he told reporters.

In the latest blow to the city’s image, some 200 Chinese holidaymakers weredumped in a grotty Hong Kong campsite miles from anywhere last Thursday. The angry tourists complained that they had been badly bitten by bed bugs.

In April, a report on Chinese TV revealed that several mainland visitors had been sold fake jewelry at excessive prices in a number of stores popular with tourists.

It followed revelations of “zero-fee tour” package tour scams, in which visitors are charged less than the basic costs for holidays in return for spending much of their time in stores and restaurants that pay the guides commission.

Many visitors complained that on such trips they had been subjected to hard-sell practices by tour guides.

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