Hong Kong and Hainan go into battle as they look to attract Chinese tourists

Tourism operators throughout Asia are gearing up for China's "Golden Week" May holidays and are preparing to go head to head as they fight for their share of this lucrative market.

Set around the May 1 to May 3 period put aside to celebrate Labor Day, "Golden Week" traditionally sees more than 150 million Chinese head off for holidays, according to the China's National Tourism Administration.

Keen to grab its slice of the lucrative tourism pie, the southern Chinese destination of Hainan Island made the first move this week by opening the first duty-free shop available to locals in all of China. The opening was greeted with scenes of delirium as an estimated 15,000 shoppers passed through its doors in the first two days.

The decision by mainland authorities to allow duty-free shopping for domestic travelers has raised eyebrows here in Hong Kong, long the destination of choice for mainland Chinese tourists looking not only for a holiday but for a bargain.

Hong Kong attracted an estimated 22.7 million Chinese over the border last year and of the money they spend here, 76 percent went on shopping. Overall, tourists visiting Hong Kong in 2010 spent an estimated HK$109.59 billion (9.6 billion euros) on shopping.

But the city has come up with a surprising way to deflect any blow Hainan might have landed by now offering special tours over Golden Week that focus on the life of Dr Sun Yat-sun.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution which led to the founding of modern China and Sun was the man commonly seen as its founding father. Although he wasn't born in Hong Kong, the city has in recent years made much of the fact that he was schooled here, now calling the city Sun's "intellectual birthplace."

To cash in on the anniversary, the Hong Kong Tourism Board ( http://www.discoverhongkong.com) has arranged special tours marking points of interest in Sun's life - including the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum - and will also be holding an exhibition in honor of the man.

The HKTB also says it will send an estimated 300,000 promotional text messages across the border to let potential tourists know what is going on.

So far this year 7.3 million Chinese tourists have come to Hong Kong - a year-on-year rise of 19 percent.

China has three versions of "Golden Week" every year, marking Labor Day, the Spring Festival in January or February and National Day on October 1.

MS

 

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