The Secretary for Culture, Kevin Yeung, on Saturday said it will take some time before Hong Kong sees a surge in tourist numbers, and cautioned that their consumption patterns might have changed since the pandemic.
He was speaking a day after authorities announced the full reopening of the border with the mainland from Monday, with no more limits to numbers of cross-border travellers. The government also scrapped vaccination requirements for all inbound travellers, although overseas arrivals are still required to take rapid antigen tests before departure.
On a radio programme, Yeung said it was hard to estimate the number of tourists likely to come to Hong Kong this year, adding that there were likely to be new tourism trends after three years of the pandemic.
"People have to plan before they go travelling, so even though we expect more travellers to come after the full reopening of the border, it will take some time," he said.
"When some other countries relaxed Covid restrictions for tourists, it took them a year for the tourist numbers to reach 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level."
Yeung also cautioned that the consumption patterns of tourists might be different to those of earlier years, and that this could have a negative effect on different sectors.
"I believe tourists will still be willing to consume goods because Hong Kong is still a shopping paradise. But those who mainly come to shop will be fewer than before. Therefore, we are not only promoting shopping for tourists, but a variety of experiences instead," he said.
Speaking on another programme, the executive director of the Tourism Board, Dane Cheng, said the sector was struggling to cope with demand from rising tourists numbers after contracting during the pandemic.
He said the sector should focus on providing quality services to tourists, instead of boosting the number of inbound travellers only.