Hong Kong visitors up through June

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong tourism is on the rise, according to figures released by the Hong Kong Tourist Association.

At the half-year mark, Hong Kong's total visitors through June numbered more than 1 million a month, or 6.18 million.

These figures, which are the latest available, represent an increase of 15.7% compared with the same period in 1999. The increase in visitors has had a positive impact on revenue and hotel occupancy, the HKTA said.

Through June, revenue from tourism was up 12.4% compared with the same period in 1999, and hotel occupancy averaged 82%, compared with 77% in 1999.

According to the association, U.S. visitors accounted for a large part of the increase, with almost 12% more arriving here than in the first half of 1999. The U.S. ranks as Hong Kong's fourth-largest market after the rest of China, Taiwan and Japan.

If this pattern continues, Hong Kong could expect to receive a total of 12.5 million visitors for the year, which is just 50,000 shy of the record 13 million registered in 1996.

HKTA's director of the Americas, Lily Shum, attributed much of the increase from the U.S. to aggressive marketing efforts and public relations campaigns.

"We have been successful in getting the word out that the only changes in the 'City of Life' since the handover have been for the better," said Shum. "Since 1998 we have welcomed growing numbers of Americans who know that Hong Kong -- the cruise and aviation gateway to Asia -- is more exciting than ever."

In addition to land visitors, nearly 17 million cruise passengers enter Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor a year, according to the HKTA.

HKTA's deputy executive director, Douglas Gautier, said that any misconceptions about Hong Kong being a costly destination are being dispelled by competitive consumer promotions.

"Sector-driven packaging in our seven key markets is proving to be just the kind of incentive prospective travelers need to view Hong Kong as an exciting year-round destination," Gautier said.

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