Mainland gives Hong Kong tourism a lift
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Mainland gives Hong Kong tourism a lift

Eight more Chinese cities join scheme to allow solo travellers to visit territory

Tourists take photos in front of Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on April 29. (Photo: Reuters)
Tourists take photos in front of Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on April 29. (Photo: Reuters)

HONG KONG - Eight more Chinese cities have joined a scheme allowing their residents to travel to Hong Kong on their own, rather than as part of a tour group, as part of efforts to boost Hong Kong’s economy.

Hong Kong is battling to revive its economy following a national security crackdown and Covid-related controls, which have led to many locals and expats leaving the city and caused tourist numbers to dwindle to a fraction of pre-pandemic levels.

The Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) began in 2003 as part of a cooperation agreement between mainland China and Hong Kong to stimulate the territory’s economy by allowing Chinese residents to apply for individual travel, rather than in a tour group.

Fifty-one cities have already joined the programme and will be joined by Taiyuan in Shanxi, Hohhot in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Harbin in Heilongjiang, Lhasa in Tibet Autonomous Region, Lanzhou in Gansu, Xining in Qinghai, Yinchuan in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Urumqi in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

“These eight cities are all provincial capital cities with large populations, significant economic growth and high spending power,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee.

Although recent official figures showed the economy of the territory grew 2.7% year-on-year in the first quarter, local businesses have described shopping malls as “dead”, with low foot traffic and shops covered with “for lease” or “coming up soon” signs.

One lawmaker recently told the city’s legislature that more than 20,000 companies had been deregistered in the first quarter of 2024, up more than 70% from the same period last year.

China imposed a sweeping national security law in 2020 after months of pro-democracy protests in 2019. In March, authorities enacted another set of security laws that some foreign governments say further undermine rights and freedoms.

The Hong Kong and Chinese governments have repeatedly said the security laws have brought stability.

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