Hong Kong boasts record visitor tally in 2000

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HONG KONG -- Hong Kong welcomed a record 13 million visitors last year, a 15% increase compared with 1999, generating billions of dollars in sales for businesses, hotels and tourist attractions, and breaking all previous records set during the pre-handover tourism rush in 1996.

"This finally puts to rest the post-handover recession blues," said Hong Kong Tourist Association chairman Selina Chow, who added that leisure, business and other travelers visiting Hong Kong spent a record $7.69 billion last year.

"While some sectors, such as retail, have still not reaped the full benefit of the tourism recovery, all signs indicate this year [2001] should see continued growth and higher spending," Chow said.

"What we don't want to see is any sharp increase in prices. After all, it is the lower air fares, lower hotel rates and lower retail prices over the past three years that have restored Hong Kong's competitive edge."

According to the association, Hong Kong recorded double-digit visitor growth last year from almost all of its top feeder markets, including short- and long-haul destinations.

The best-performing regions were North Asia (up nearly 20%), mainland China (up 18%) and south and southeast Asia and Taiwan (each up 15.6%).

Long-haul markets Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific were each up 15%, while the U.S. was up 12.5%.

These record-breaking visitor figures gave Hong Kong the distinction of having the highest hotel occupancy in the Asia-Pacific region last year, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For the year, Hong Kong's hotels averaged 83% occupancy, up from 79% in 1999, but still short of the record 88% occupancy recorded in 1996.

The jump in occupancy last year compared with 1999 was achieved despite a nearly 3% increase in the number of available hotel rooms, which stands at approximately 35,000.

The average daily room rate in Hong Kong last year was $90, nearly 10% higher than in 1999, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

PricewaterhouseCoopers also said it expects occupancy rates to fall slightly during the next three years as more hotel rooms come on line.

The firm predicted that room rates would soften next year when 5,000 new three- and four-star hotel rooms open.

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