Tourism in Hong Kong is set for an unexpected boom this Easter as travelers look to avoid visiting earthquake-hit Japan as it struggles to recover from nuclear meltdown.
Businesses and glitzy shopping malls in the former British colony’s financial hub have said they are expecting a major windfall as many visitors, especially those from mainland China, seek alternative destinations to crisis-torn Japan as the holiday season approaches.
The prospects are looking very good, says Joseph Tung of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council. “People are looking to avoid Japan right now due to the current crisis” he told the AFP news agency, before adding that Hong Kong is predicting a 15% increase in tourist arrivals from 2010 over the Easter and Labour Day holidays.
“We are expecting many visitors to flock here” said Tung, before adding that the city has already received a large influx of corporate visitors as businesses look to move from Japan.
“Many companies have relocated here from Japan, and this is already providing a nice boost for our local businesses,” he said.
The Wing On Travel agency was also optimistic about the number of arrivals expected, saying “Being such a tourist-friendly place, Hong Kong is sure to see more inbound traffic”.
Wing On Travel’s Daisie Sin, assistant general manager, estimates that the upcoming holidays will see visitor numbers increasing by at least 10%, claiming that tourist numbers have already risen as a result of people from China and Southeast Asian countries looking to avoid Japan.
Local businesses can also expect to benefit from a large number of locals who were planning to travel to Japan now staying at home and spending money there instead. The Sino Group property giant, owner of a number of Hong Kong’s biggest malls, said that Japan was a favorite destination for many people in Hong Kong. “But these people are now most likely just going to stay here and do some serious shopping” said Irene So, the groups retail marketing manager.
“Meanwhile, outside visitors generally see Hong Kong as an alternative to Japan, so we hope to benefit from them as well,” she said.
But while Hong Kong counts its good fortune, tourism in Japan has been battered following the disastrous Tohoku earthquake in March. Japanese officials said yesterday that tourist arrivals for the last month dropped from a daily average of 15,500 to around just 5,000 a day.