Olympic Games contribute to summer tourism slump in Hong Kong

September 30th, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, Sep 30 (DPA) Hong Kong saw its tourist numbers plunge by tens of thousands in August despite hosting the Olympic equestrian events, officials admitted Tuesday.Visitor arrivals to the former British colony in August were 2.67 million, or 2.9 per cent less than in 2007, the Hong Kong Tourism Board announced.

The city of 6.9 million had originally hoped for a bumper summer thanks to overseas interest in the Olympic Games but months before the games hoteliers were reporting a dramatic fall-off in bookings.

Officials travelled around the world to promote Hong Kong as an Olympics destination but ironically the fall in tourist arrivals was steepest in areas where equestrian sports are strongest.

In August, visitors from Australia and New Zealand were down 15.7 per cent, visitors from the Americas down 15.8 per cent and from Europe, Africa and the Middle East down 20.5 per cent.

Officials blamed the surprise fall in arrivals on the economic downturn and China’s toughening of visa rules ahead of the Olympics, making it hard for people to travel onwards to mainland China from Hong Kong.

Millions of US dollars were spent preparing stadia in Hong Kong for the equestrian games but dressage and show jumping events failed to draw crowds among a population more used to the heady combination of horse racing and gambling.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board’s prediction of 30 million visitors in 2008 - two million more than in 2007 - now looks in doubt after the drop in the run-up to and during the Olympics.

Up to the end of August, Hong Kong had welcomed 19.57 million visitors, 7.3 per cent more than for the same period in 2007.

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