Macau welcomed more visitors from mainland China than Hong Kong over the Christmas and New Year period for the first time ever, according to travel agency figures.
Trips to the gambling hub spiked at the end of December following celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, the country’s biggest travel website Ctrip.com said in a report published on Thursday.
It also said that Macau’s growing popularity as a shopping destination had further helped to boost visitor numbers.
The festive atmosphere in Hong Kong, where Christmas is widely celebrated, makes it a popular destination at this time of year, but the report said six months of political turmoil had seen its appeal diminish.
Statistics from the Hong Kong Immigration Department showed that about 450,000 mainland travellers entered the city between December 21 and 26, with a further 300,000 crossing the border between December 29 and January 1.
But this was less than half the total from the previous year, when more than a million visitors arrived between December 21 and 26, and more than 800,000 between December 29 and January 1.
Zhuang Zhimin, a tourism researcher from East China Normal University in Shanghai, said many mainland people are not willing to travel to Hong Kong due to safety concerns.
“But I believe it’s a temporary phenomenon that people shun Hong Kong,” he continued. “Macau and Hong Kong have their own special features to lure tourists.”
Tuniu, another major travel agency, said the number of mainlanders booking trips to Macau had risen by 60 per cent in 2019 compared with the previous year.
The company said the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge at the end of 2018 and Western atmosphere in this former Portuguese colony have helped attract mainland travellers.
One of the mainland tourists who did decide to travel to Hong Kong over Christmas said she had been reassured by friends in the city that it was still safe to visit.
Irene Yang, a property service company manager in Shanghai, said she had been wondering whether to cancel her trip following clashes on a number of university campuses in November.
But the 30-year-old said: “My friends in Hong Kong told me the situation now is not as chaotic or violent as being reported. At least, public transport is all right.”
Ctrip’s report also found that 30 per cent of travellers during this period had been born after 1990. This compared with the 27 per cent for people born in the Eighties and was the first time that more travellers were born after 1990.
January 1 is a public holiday on the mainland, but Christmas is not and only some foreign companies give their staff time off during the holiday period.
Because of the short holiday period, most travellers stayed in Asia.
According to Ctrip, the top five overseas destinations were Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.
Angela Feng, a manager at an accounting firm in Shanghai, went trekking in Nepal between December 25 to January 2.
“I love hiking, so I joined an outdoor activity group to Nepal. The country is popular among backpackers in China,” said Feng, who is in her 30s.
“It’s good for me to be unreachable for some days because there is no telephone signal in the mountains.”
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This article Mainland Chinese tourists shun Hong Kong in favour of Macau over Christmas and New Year first appeared on South China Morning Post