Hong Kong tourism officials too ‘passive’ in efforts to attract mainland Chinese visitors, former city leader CY Leung says

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Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has accused local tourism officials of being too passive in their efforts to attract mainland Chinese visitors to the city amid increasing competition from other destinations across the country.

Leung, Hong Kong’s only vice-chairman on Beijing’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, criticised politicians, without naming them, in two social media posts on Tuesday and Wednesday after local businesses expressed concerns about a large number of residents leaving the city during the Christmas holidays.

“Making guesses [about the outlook of mainland tourists] is passive. A proactive approach would be to facilitate travellers heading south through policies and procedures,” he said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

“This, in nature, is a tourism policy, and the transport bureau and immigration department are just playing a supporting role. So which authority is primarily responsible for scoring goals?

“The role of a striker and a goalkeeper should be clearly defined. The responsibility of scoring goals cannot be handed over to the goalkeeper.”

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying says mainland officials have ensured their cities have competitive post-pandemic offerings for tourists. Photo: Winson Wong

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung is the city’s top tourism official. He served as the education undersecretary during Leung’s administration between 2012 and 2017.

Hong Kong residents made more than 2 million outbound trips between last Wednesday and Tuesday. Over the same period, 653,990 visitors from the mainland entered the city, including 161,789 on Saturday, marking the highest single-day figure for arrivals from across the border since the National Day holiday in October.

With many Hongkongers flocking to Shenzhen for day trips to enjoy affordable dining and retail options, Leung said mainland officials had made “great efforts” in ensuring their cities had competitive offerings following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Shenzhen is just one example that is within sight for Hong Kong people,” he said.

Hongkongers make 1.3 million outbound trips in 3 days, beating pre-pandemic era

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Leung said the city should not worry about losing patrons as a result of more land crossings with Shenzhen being open for 24 hours.

More checkpoints operating around the clock was among the goals of a three-year action plan released by the National Development and Reform Commission designed to boost business in the Greater Bay Area.

“I think we will [lose more consumers to Shenzhen] in the short term, but if we don’t embrace competition, we won’t face up to the need to upgrade and transform, let alone extend the reach of Hong Kong’s businesses across the Shenzhen River,” he said, adding facing external competition was what made the mainland’s opening up policy successful.

Beijing not taking Hong Kong’s current calm for granted: CY Leung

But he said many political elites and opinion leaders in Hong Kong did not visit Shenzhen enough, adding there was a reluctance to build relationships with those on the mainland.

The bay area refers to Beijing’s initiative to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland China cities into an economic powerhouse.

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