Hong Kong all set for record-breaking Chinese New Year

As Hong Kong prepares to usher in the Year of the Rabbit - and enjoy the four-day holiday that accompanies Chinese New Year - the city is also preparing to welcome a record number of visitors, drawn by shopping bargains and host of festival-related attractions.

Chinese New Year 2011 runs from Thursday, February 3 to Sunday, February 6 and is a time for gathering among family and friends, eating, drinking and - Hong Kong being Hong Kong - shopping.

More than 650,000 visitors are expected in town, with the Hong Kong Tourism Board predicting a rise of 15 percent in the number of mainland Chinese tourists - traditionally the city's biggest market.

That's great news for Hong Kong's ubiquitous malls, which have seen sales around Chinese New Year skyrocket in recent years as the city promotes itself as a festive destination. According to the HKTB, retail sales around Chinese New Year have grown by 65 percent from 2005 to 2009, and now account for more than HK$275 billion (25 billion euros).

So keen is one Hong Kong mall on attracting visitors from up north that it has sent "500,000 text messages to target consumer groups in mainland China and conducted a national ad campaign through mainland websites and radio stations," according to the Wall Street Journal Asia edition.

The Hong Kong International Airport is meanwhile expecting a record 986 flights into town on Friday (beating the then-record 973 that arrived on December 17 last year) and a total of 15,508 flights to arrive over the 17 days surrounding Chinese New Year - traditionally the period that people come and go on their holidays.

And the city is pulling out all stops to entertain visitors to town, including lantern displays, a massive flower market and the city's annual New Year float parade through the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district on Thursday and a massive fireworks display over Victoria Harbour on Friday night.

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This year's promo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRpEAXqjq9k&feature=channel

Highlights of last year's parade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrqfH5prEEI&NR=1&feature=fvwp

MS

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