Hong Kong tourism chief, Dane Cheng says that tourism will be returning back to normal in July, and the destination will be focusing on attracting mainland Chinese visitors. As there is no ban on outbound China travel, tourism and medical tourism will likely resume as soon as Hong Kong opens the borders.
China is a dominant source market for Hong Kong, accounting for 77% of arrivals in 2019.
Patients from the Chinese mainland accounted for almost all medical tourists visiting hospitals in Hong Kong for health checks, surgery, transplants, stem cell treatment and birth tourism. A crack down on birth tourism however has greatly reduced recent numbers in this area.
Focusing marketing efforts on the mainland China source market will boost tourism numbers and allow Hong Kong to decrease its recovery period. Hong Kong tourist officials should now concentrate on marketing what the destination has to offer, which will enhance the destination’s image.
The second part of the plan is to attract new markets for tourism. Apart from China, the main medical tourism source for Hong Kong is the USA, but there are serious doubts about Hong Kong being able to attract Americans until 2021. Americans may view Hong Kong as too close to mainland China, while Hong Kong may be wary of seeking business from the USA, which is increasingly seen as the most COVID-19 affected country in the world.
Tourist destinations must create a strategic action now to recover as quickly as possible in a post-COVID-19 tourism environment. Domestic and regional tourism will be likely to increase swiftly in July if tourism does regain normality around then. Demand for long-haul travel to Hong Kong will take longer to resume, as a lack of consumer confidence will be prevalent when the impact of COVID-19 lessens.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board recognises that efforts must be regional. As medical costs in Hong Kong are higher than in most Asian neighbours this leaves Hong Kong with a problem of where new medical tourists come from. The simplest answer may be to accept that most, if not all business will be from China.