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Change in holiday habits sees budget travel to Hong Kong increase

“Budget travel is the trend nowadays,” Yang said. “If you can rent a double room in Shenzhen for only 400 yuan per night, there is no way I would spend nearly HK$2,000 (US$256) a night in Hong Kong hotels.”

Tourists queue up for high speed trains at West Kowloon station. Photo: Elson Li

He added they did not plan to shop, although they spent some time in shopping centres having coffee when there was downpour on Saturday.

“We are not into luxurious brands and there is nothing attractive enough for us to shop for, honestly,” Yang said. “Our money is mostly spent on street snacks and cheaper meals.”

Yang said he only spent HK$800 by just roaming around the city and taking photographs in line with recommendations on the Instagram-like Chinese social media site Xiaohongshu in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Kennedy Town.

About 670,000 mainland tourists visited Hong Kong in the first four days of the holiday, spanning last Wednesday to Sunday, despite grey skies and rainy weather.

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said that the mainland tourist footfall for the five-day break would be in line with expectations of 800,000 people with a total spend of more than HK$2 billion.

Kelly Xu Jie, from Shenzhen, also said she did not plan to splash out on swanky hotels or a shopping spree.

She and a friend commuted between Futian and Hong Kong over her three-day visit to the city to save money.

“We arrived in Central’s Lan Kwai Fong on Friday and had a bowl of beef brisket noodles,” the 23-year-old online shop owner said.

“Over the next two days, we explored the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui and the Yau Ma Tei Police Station.

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“We just found some cafes to chill when it was raining. Honestly, we don’t need to shop in Hong Kong as you can pretty much buy everything online in Shenzhen with speedy delivery.”

Zhang Weixing, 26, a factory supervisor from Fujian province, stayed at a relative’s home in Kai Tak for his four-day trip with a cousin, who was on his first trip to Hong Kong, and spent about HK$600 at a pharmacy.

“I just took my cousin to do the basics such as roaming both sides of the Victoria Harbour, taking the Star Ferry and the tram.”

Zhang added they also visited the tower block “monster buildings” in Quarry Bay, which were featured in a smash hit Transformers film.

They said they also found prices in Hong Kong a bit on the high side.

“A cup of coffee in a shopping centre costs about HK$50, while a meal can easily cost about HK$200 a person,” Zhang said. “So we ended up staying at our relatives’ home playing video games during the rain.

“In the future, we might choose to travel to other cities in mainland China during long holidays. At least things will be cheaper and we will have more things to do.”

But Charlene Liang, 27, a textile product trader from Guangxi, bucked the budget trend and forked out about HK$8,000 during a stay with her parents in Hong Kong.

“Even though the expenses were higher, considering it was my parents’ first trip here, we decided to stay in a hotel and do some shopping,” she said. “My mum focused on buying skincare products and my dad purchased two watches.”

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The trio also spent HK$1,200 for three tickets for a Victoria Harbour boat tour on Sunday night because they could not do it sooner because of the heavy rain over the past few days.

Some mainland users of Xiaohongshu highlighted how a Labour Day golden week visit to Hong Kong was different from the experience four or five years ago.

“The MTR stations are not as crowded, there are only a few people in the pharmacies and there are fewer people dragging suitcases for shopping,” one wrote.

“Buying electronic products and luxury goods is not cheap. I just bought some medication for my family. I really don’t know what else to buy.”

Another user from Guangdong province said that it was his most disappointing trip to the city compared with several previous visits – particularly the standard of service at a restaurant he visited.

“I don’t expect them [the waiters] to smile and provide service all the time,” the man said.

“But I really can’t understand their gesture of extending their hand as if they are barring you from speaking. It is just unreasonable and makes you feel unwelcome.

“To be honest, with the unfavourable exchange rate and the unreasonably high prices for shopping, poor quality accommodation, basic food and such terrible service attitudes, I can’t think of a reason to come here any more.”

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