Hong Kong arrivals signal post-SARS recovery

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HONG KONG -- There are signs of a tourism rebound in Hong Kong, although the impact of the SARS outbreak continues to be felt, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Some 997,455 tourists visited Hong Kong from July 1 to 25, down 8.9% compared to same period last year, when 1,095,256 tourist arrivals were recorded, the tourism board said.

Although still in negative territory, the 8.9% drop was an improvement from June's 38% decrease and May's 68% drop, signaling a recovery from the effects of the SARS outbreak, the tourism board said.

Except for arrivals from mainland China, which rose 17.5% in July, all other major feeder markets were down. Arrivals from the U.S., for example, were down 44.5% for the month.

From Jan. 1 to July 25, Hong Kong welcomed more than 6.9 million total visitors, down 19.2% compared to the same period in 2002.

A spokeswoman for the tourism board said the July figures were "very encouraging."

"There seems to be a lot of pent-up demand for Honk Kong right now. But the problem now is lack of airline service," she continued.

Cathay Pacific, for example, is operating one flight a day to Hong Kong from Los Angeles and San Francisco instead of its pre-SARS schedule of two daily flights from each city. Cathay is expected to return to its pre-SARS schedule to Hong Kong by late September.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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