Hong Kong might be a city of just over 7 million people, but its citizens are relatively well heeled and well traveled.
And they do spend when they travel!
According to a report issued by the International Travel Expo Hong Kong based on figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO), people in Hong Kong spent fully US$17.5 billion in 2010 on international tourism, up 12% over 2009.
Fourth in Asia
Hong Kong people ranked 15th in the world and fourth in Asia after China, which spent US$54.9 billion on international travel last year. Japan outbound travelers spent US$27.9 billion, and South Koreans spent US$17.7 billion during this period.
To put these figures in context, China has a population of 1.3 billion against Hong Kong's 7 million. Japan has a population of 127 million. And South Korea has a population of 49 million.
Which means Hong Kong people spend far more on overseas travel on a per capita basis than their counterparts in other parts of Asia.
Roughly speaking, that works out to a city of 7 million people spending nearly one third of what a country of 1.3 billion people spent when traveling overseas.
Of course, most people in China don't have such luck. The overwhelming majority of people in the world's most populous country probably never leave their village let alone their province. A trip to Beijing, the nation's capital, might be a once in a lifetime experience.
Special Economic Zone
To be fair, Hong Kong is a special economic zone within the People's Republic of China. With a high degree of autonomy, it has its own laws, immigration, and currency.
So a trip to other others parts of “China” are considered trips overseas, even though nothing more than a river (and wire fences and customs check points and a mindset) separate Hong Kong from the rest of the country.
A trip from, let's say, Guangzhou to Beijing would be considered “domestic” whereas a trip from Hong Kong to Shenzhen would be considered “overseas” – even thought the first would entail much more travel and cost than the second.
However, travel documents and customs procedures would not be involved in the former. In the latter, one would have to clear customs twice: once to leave Hong Kong and once to enter China.
Still, there a few things that make it easier for Hong Kong people to travel abroad.
- Hong Kong people have relatively high incomes.
- Hong Kong SAR passports holders can visit more than 140 countries and regions in the world, including the European Union, without a visa. A significant number of people in Hong Kong, meanwhile, hold full foreign passports, making things even easier.
- Most people in Hong Kong can speak at least some English, which means they don't have to rely on packaged tours and tour guides. As many as 70% of visitors to Japan did so as independent travelers.
- Overseas travel has become a part of the Hong Kong lifestyle. The more you do it, the easier it gets. (Or so they say.)