Sky’s the limit as Hong Kong rolls out red carpet, primes fireworks for Labour Day ‘golden week’

The Hong Kong tourism sector has welcomed plans for new fireworks displays and shopping discounts to attract visitors from mainland China for the Labour Day “golden week” holiday.

But the industry appealed on Thursday for the government to do more to promote businesses in the city’s less well-known areas to tourists.

A week before the start of the golden week national holiday, which runs from May 1 to 5, immigration officials predicted that the first day would see peak travel at land border crossings.

They said people would make a million trips in and out of the city on May 1 alone.

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Travellers on their way to Macau at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

The city was predicted to see 5.9 million arrivals and departures over the week, with at least 800,000 mainland visitors expected to visit Hong Kong, city leader John Lee Ka-chiu said earlier.

A 10-minute fireworks display on May 1 at 8pm over Victoria Harbour will be a highlight to kick off the golden week.

The show will create patterns such as smiley faces and the letters “HK”, shooting up to 100 metres (328 feet) into the night sky.

The event was timed to coincide with a shopping festival organised by the Yau Tsim Mong District Office and council, which will feature limited discounts offered by 2,200 businesses across malls, hotels and restaurants in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok.

Tsim Sha Tsui is home to some of the most popular tourist attractions, including the Avenue of Stars on the harbourfront, major shopping centres and a huge range of restaurants and bars.

Hong Kong gearing up for 800,000 mainland visitors over ‘golden week’ holiday

Tourism sector lawmaker Perry Yiu Pak-leung said the fireworks would be a spectacular welcome gesture to tourists and boost excitement, but that they were unlikely to be “a key attraction” on their own.

“Hopefully the [Yau Tsim Mong] shopping festival can attract more people and boost consumption,” he said.

Yiu added that there should be more synergy between the fireworks and the line-up of shopping perks.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, the president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, agreed that activities planned by the tourism authorities could help heat up the atmosphere.

But he questioned what benefits there would be for “districts other than Yau Tsim Mong?”

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Millions flock to China’s main tourist attractions to celebrate National Day

Millions flock to China’s main tourist attractions to celebrate National Day

“What the Tourism Board is doing now focuses on both sides of the Victoria Harbour and Yau Tsim Mong, but it seems there isn’t much effort being done in other districts,” Wong said.

He added that business in the restaurant industry would see a 10 per cent increase over the holiday compared with non-peak periods.

But Wong warned that takings might suffer a slight drop when compared with the Labour Day holiday last year, partly due to a trend among Hongkongers to head to the mainland for shopping.

He said as tourists increasingly looked for in-depth travel experiences, authorities should do more to promote the unique features and culture of different districts of the city.

Timothy Chui Ting-pong, the executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, said shopping discount offers would be a “highlight” over the five-day holiday.

He added he was hopeful the offers would lead to more spending in the city.

Hong Kong tourism sector hoping for 30% bump in visitors over ‘golden week’

The Tourism Board joined forces with online travel agents on the mainland to promote immersive green tourism, Hong Kong’s nightlife and engage in “city walks”, a trending way of getting about popular with young mainlanders.

Media organisations and content creators from Xian in Shaanxi province and Qingdao in Shandong province were also invited to tour Hong Kong to promote the city on social media.

Residents from the two mainland cities are allowed to apply to an expanded solo traveller scheme to visit Hong Kong

The Individual Visit Scheme already covered 49 mainland cities, including many first-tier ones such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Chongqing.

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Holidaymakers head to Macau at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port on Thursday. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

The scheme allows residents of eligible cities to visit Hong Kong on their own rather than with tour groups.

The board also distributed 16,000 coupons for discounts worth HK$200 (US$25.50) to visitors from Xian and Qingdao through travel agents and airlines.

During a press briefing on Thursday, boundary division commander Ng Hoi-ka said the Immigration Department had deployed about 200 extra frontline staff to cover the travel period and would cooperate with authorities to extend checkpoint operating hours if needed.

The Lo Wu checkpoint was expected to be the busiest land crossing, handling a predicted average of 200,000 travellers daily during the holiday, Ng said.

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The Lok Ma Chau Spur Line is expected to handle 170,000 travellers a day and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will deal with an estimated 130,000.

The number of city cars travelling on the bridge has tripled since authorities allowed Hong Kong private vehicles to travel to the mainland from last July.

As many as 12,000 cars travel through the checkpoint on most weekends.

Ng said authorities expected an increase in volume over the golden week break.

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