Record tourism numbers lift the gloom in Hong Kong

The common thought was that it had been a pretty tough year for the Hong Kong tourism industry thus far with accusations and embarrassment lingering over local guides' much publicized treatment of Chinese visitors and the rapid development of rival regional destinations such as Taiwan and Singapore eating into the city's market share.

How wrong everyone was. Figures just released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board show that July saw more visitors come to town over one month than ever before - 3.14 million of them, to be exact, which represented a year-on-year rise of 31.9 percent.

South and Southeast Asia visitor numbers rose by 40 percent, while long-haul flights (over six and half hours) were up 10 percent, says the HKTB. And the total number of visitors to Hong Kong topped the 20 million mark for the first seven months of the year, up 24.4 percent from 2009.

Hong Kong has been quick to ease concerns in mainland China following revelations on the internet that tourists were being coerced into making purchases they didn't want - or being made to face the very verbal consequences of their angry guides if they didn't.

In the past few weeks 19 people have been arrested for offering illegal, cut-price tours in the city and the government has promised to look into the way tours are registered and operated in the town.

And with an increased number of Chinese tourists heading to Taiwan - thanks to relaxed visa laws - as well as the new resorts which have opened up in both Singapore and Macau, the Hong Kong government is looking at news ways to draw people to "Asia's World City.''

The city has just brought the curtain down on its "Summer Spectacular'' series of events - which included dragon boat racing and food and shopping promotions - and still has its "Food and Wine Month'' (November) and ‘Winter Fest'' (December) to come.

Program details can be found on http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/

MS

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