Express rail link boosts1 inch thick wristbands HK tourism

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Passengers walk out of the arrival hall at the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link in Hong Kong on Sept 30. [ANTHONY KWAN/GETTY IMAGES]

Number of Golden Week visitors from Chinese mainland up 20 percent

Hong Kong"s tourism sector experienced a bumper National Day Golden Week holiday this year, as the newly opened cross-border high-speed rail link attracted more holidaymakers from the Chinese mainland.

More than 1.52 million mainland tourists visited Hong Kong during the weeklong break, up 20 percent year-on-year, according to data from Hong Kong"s Immigration Department.

Hong Kong and Macao retained their crowns as the top destinations for Chinese mainland short-haul trippers during the Golden Week holiday, according to a report released on Sunday by online travel agency Tongcheng-ELong Holdings and Tongcheng International Travel Service.

"The highly anticipated high-speed rail link comes as a much-awaited booster for Hong Kong"s tourism industry, so much so, the growth of mainland visitor arrivals during the Golden Week holiday really was beyond our expectations," said local tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing.

Mass Transit Railway Corporation, which operates the HK$84.4 billion local stretch of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, said on Sunday that 650,000 trips between Hong Kong and mainland destinations were made using the link from Sept 28 to Oct 7.

That sent the total number of passenger trips to and from Hong Kong"s West Kowloon Station since the new rail line got off to a smooth start on Sept 23 to more than 880,000.

MTR, which also operates the city"s subway system, said more than 1 million tickets have been sold for the express rail link.

On Friday, the number of passengers on the bullet trains hit an all-time high of 80,020, meeting the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government"s initial estimate of average daily ridership of 80,000 for the first time.

Charles Ng Kwong-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong Inbound Tour Operators Association, said the number of tour groups visiting the city during the Golden Week was up more than 10 percent yearon-year, and the best performance in five years.

Ng said he believed the new high-speed railway, which slashes travel time between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, capital of neighboring Guangdong province, to 47 minutes from the previous two hours, was helping the city retain its allure and rekindling mainland tourists" desire to visit Hong Kong.

The city"s retailers were said to have ended the Golden Week on a strong note. Local wholesale and retail sector lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai said earlier that pharmacies were believed to have seen sales rise 20 percent year-on-year during the break, while jewelers and cosmetics stores also posted double-digit sales growth.