Visitors from China have taken over the top spot as the biggest spenders in Hong Kong while Taiwanese tightened their purse strings during visits to the territory by 7 percent, according to figures for last year released Tuesday by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Some 4.4 million Chinese visitors went to Hong Kong last year, with each staying an average of 3.46 nights and spending an average of HK$5,169 (US$663), according to the board.
The Chinese visitors replaced Americans as the top spenders in Hong Kong, despite an increase by around 2.2 percent year-on-year in the amount US tourists spend per visit.
Visitors from the US spent an average of HK$5,072 (US$650) during their stay in the former British colony last year.
Visitors from Hong Kong's other sources of tourists -- namely Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific -- also spent more on average compared to a year earlier.
Apart from China, however, Hong Kong's short-haul sources of tourists all recorded decreases in the average amount spent per visitor. The amount spent by each Taiwanese tourist to Hong Kong fell by 7.7 percent to HK$4,422 (US$567), while spending per tourist from South and Southeast Asia slipped 6.2 percent to HK$3,952 (US$507).
Officials said that eased entry requirements for Taiwanese visitors after implementation of the iPermit system "should also re-energize that market, while we expect to see a gradual recovery in the number of long-haul visitors as the year progresses."
North Asia saw an 11.6 percent drop in the amount spent by each of its tourists to Hong Kong to HK$3,988 (US$513), largely due to the effects of Japan's economic recession and the depreciation in the value of the yen. Some 1.3 million tourists from Japan visited Hong Kong last year.
The average spending by each of the total 13.7 million visitors to Hong Kong in 2001 was HK$4,532 (US$581), marking a marginal decrease of 0.2 percent over the figure for 2000.
The average length of stay meanwhile grew by 2.7 percent to 3.08 nights, reversing a declining trend in this area in recent years.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board is forecasting a 7.9 percent increase to 14.81 million in the number of visitors to Hong Kong for 2002, largely due to an expected increase in the number of Chinese visitors.
"Despite continuing economic concerns affecting many of our key markets, we believe this level of growth is attainable," board officials said.