The Middle East is one of the fastest growing markets for Hong Kong, according to a tourism official.
Richard Hume, director Northern Europe and Middle East, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), told TTN arrivals from the Middle East have grown considerably in 2007.
“Already we are seeing very impressive growth from the Middle East markets, which are collectively up a further 27 per cent on 2006. This growth shows no sign of abating and we would envisage this rate to continue or even further improve throughout 2007,” he said. Already in 2006, numbers grew nearly 25 per cent, he said.
“Overall arrivals into Hong Kong for 2006 were 25.25 million, a growth of 8.1 per cent on the previous year. Arrivals to the Middle East totalled 150,110, a growth of 24.2 per cent on the previous year. Although this is only a small percentage of the overall total -- 0.6 per cent – the Middle East was one of the fastest growing markets in percentage terms.”
Like everywhere else, Middle Eastern visitors are among the highest-spending in Hong Kong. “The average night stay from Middle East visitors to Hong Kong is 3.1 nights. Their average spend is higher than the norm at a very healthy HK$6,125 ($785) per person,” Hume said.
The board will continue to target the entire region, with a special emphasis on the main feeder countries of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, he added.
For the Middle East, Hong Kong has always been synonymous with its shopping, but Hume said the board wants to promote other aspects of the city, such as the dining, nightlife and green aspects. “The Middle East is also a very strong family market for Hong Kong – we have had a huge amount of interest in Disneyland in particular, as well as in day trips to Macau.”
In line with those efforts, the HKTB has ramped up its marketing to reflect the city’s appeal for Muslim tourists. “Hong Kong is very welcoming of Muslim guests and recognises the growth in interest from areas such as the Middle East. As well as the huge opportunities for shopping, Hong Kong is able to offer a plethora of restaurants serving Halal food.”
Looking ahead to 2008, Hume said the HKTB will be working with its trade partners in the Middle East to attract more travellers from the region. “New hotels, restaurants, bars and attractions are opening up all the time and we will work closely with the media to make sure that the Middle East market is kept abreast of any new plans,” he said.
HKTB has also announced plans to a guidebook for Muslim travellers next month. The book will list the city’s halal-certified restaurants as well as providing information on tourism sites.
More details are available at www.discoverhongkong.com. The board recently launched a new online training scheme, which agents can visit by logging onto www.specialisthk.com.
By Shalu Chandran