Finding gold on the Maritime Silk Road

Updated: 2016-02-19 16:52

By Luis Liu(China Daily USA)

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Finding gold on the Maritime Silk Road

The central government's Belt and Road Initiative offers renewed hope for revival of HK's flagging economy, with the tourism industry among its most avid supporters, Luis Liu reports.

As Hong Kong businesses get ready to respond to the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's call to climb on board the central government's Belt and Road Initiative, the city's struggling tourist industry hopes to lead the way, bringing new business to the city. Leung, in citing the Belt and Road Initiative more than 40 times in his Policy Address, singled out the tourism industry as one of the early beneficiaries of the initiative.

The CE evoked images of a major shift in the tourism sector: expansion to new markets, bringing new visitors to revive an industry which has become almost wholly dependent on faltering numbers of mainland tourists.

A detailed blueprint setting out how this is to be accomplished still has to be worked out among the different levels of government.

Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) statistics show that last year, the number of tourist visitors to Hong Kong fell for the first time since 2003, the year the SAR government introduced the Individual Visit Scheme, to revive the local economy after the SARS epidemic. The 2015 numbers fell to 59.3 million, down 1.5 million from the record setting 60.8 million in 2014.

There were some positive signals in last year's figures, however. There was a 5 percent increase in the number of visitors from Southeast Asia, which plays a major part in the Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at promoting greater international economic cooperation and integration. In December 2015 alone, tourist arrivals from South Asia and Southeast Asia surged 8.9 percent over the previous year. The December figures for North Asia were even more promising, increasing by 6.7 percent, HKTB statistics showed. The November numbers were better still. Visits from South and Southeast Asia climbed 13.9 percent. Tourism from North Asia increased 11.9 percent.

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