Hong Kong saw almost 34 million visitor arrivals in 2023, exceeding the tourism board’s original forecast of 30 million. Tourists from Mainland China accounted for 79% of arrivals, and most of them crossed the border into Hong Kong during the Labour Day and National Day golden weeks, and over the summer holidays. 

According to data released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, visitors from Southeast Asia accounted for a majority of non-Mainland tourists, and travellers from the Philippines and Thailand more than doubled the figures from before the pandemic. In addition, overnight visitors made up half of the entire year’s tourists, and they stayed for an average of 3.6 nights, also longer than before 2020. However, the 2023 figures are still well below the pre-pandemic era, when a total of 55.91 million travellers visited the city in 2019.

hong kong 2023 new year's eve fireworks show
Hong Kong had more than 220,000 visitors on New Year’s Eve (© Hong Kong Tourism Board)

Once Hong Kong removed the last of its anti-epidemic restrictions in early 2023 — most notably the mask-wearing mandate and the pre-departure Covid-19 testing requirements — the government began a months-long campaign to encourage tourists to visit the city called Hello Hong Kong. During this time, the Hong Kong International Airport gave away 500,000 free airline tickets to travellers from around the world to visit the city, and the tourism board distributed vouchers that visitors could use at restaurants and bars.

The tourism board also noted that travellers to Hong Kong were moving away from viewing the city as a shopping destination and were more interested in its cultural experiences. Authorities decided to revive hotspots that lost visitors during the pandemic — such as the new-look Temple Street Night Market — and bring back annual events like the New Year’s Eve fireworks display and the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance.

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There have also been reports about the city keeping the border control points between Hong Kong and Mainland China open for longer during the forthcoming Chinese New Year holidays, especially in view of the reports that Mainland tourists were stranded at Sheung Shui MTR station during the New Year’s Eve rush.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said, “We will explore ways to extend the operating hours of certain boundary control points and to open more boundary control points. We will also consider extension of various services to tie in with the change of operating hours of border control points to make it more convenient for visitors over the festivals.”

Header image credits: danielvfung via Canva

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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