Thursday, October 01, 2009

When Not To Go To HK

Was just in HK for business... never go during summer... its like a steam bath sauna every time I go out walking. Just 5 minutes and you will be bathing in your own sweat. I think I took 4 baths a day when I was there. Another reason why one should not be in HK during the last week of September and first week of October is the extended China holiday period. Smiles are forecast across much of Hong Kong for the next 8 days as a stream of visitors with money to spend pours in from the mainland.

Retailers, caterers and people in the travel sector are those who will sport the biggest grins, generated by a windfall as an estimated 8.85 million people pass through border checkpoints. The estimate by the Immigration Department shows a 10 percent increase from the number of visitors last year during the Golden Week holiday period, when most factories in the mainland are closed. This year's holiday has an additional layer on top of Hong Kong's usual shopping and sightseeing come-ons and attractions, with the Mid- Autumn Festival adding zest on October 3.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said most tours were 80 to 90 percent booked, and he expects a 10 percent increase in business. The Standard reported last week that the travel sector had forecast a 5-10 percent boost despite the strains of the human swine flu (H1N1).

There is certainly confidence across the retailing, catering and travel businesses that cash registers will ring merrily, with plenty of predictions about double-digit increases in business. Gearing for the rush from the mainland, many shops are hiring extra staff for the first two weeks of October. Officers of the Immigration Department are also bracing for busy times over the next 12 days. About 3.4 million passengers - a daily average of 262,000 - are expected to pass through Lo Wu alone.

The heaviest outbound day will be October 1, when 206,000 people are expected to head into the mainland, but there will be a solid stream flowing in the opposite direction for days. The heaviest inbound day is likely to be October 4, with 196,000 visitors expected to go through the checkpoint. Passenger traffic at Lok Ma Chau is also going to be heavy over the holiday period - an estimated 1.43 million, for a daily average of 110,000 - with October 3 looking like the busiest day.

On top of stopping all leave to handle the rush, the Immigration Department will have additional security guards to help in crowd control. And department officers along with police, customs and the MTR Corporation will be in a joint command center at Lo Wu to oversee traffic and handle any emergency. The department has appealed to would-be cross-border travelers to avoid the October 1-4 period if possible and in any event to be sure all their documents, such as home visit permits, are valid.

p/s photo: Eva Huang Sheng Yi

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