Hong Kong's travel industry continues to suffer from a winter chill, with even the week-long Spring Festival Holiday failing to warm it up.
Only 120 mainland tour groups visited Hong Kong per day during the holiday week, a drop of 70 percent compared to last year's figure of 380, Hong Kong Travel Industry Council Executive Director Joseph Tung Yiu-chung said over the weekend.
He said he believed it was the sharpest decrease in more than a decade, and predicted the situation was unlikely to improve in the short term.
He attributed slumping inbound tourism to the negative impact of local disputes and competition from other destinations.
Mob violence during the Lunar New Year holiday made the already slumping market go from bad to worse.
About 300 people took part in a riot in the early hours of Feb 9 in Mong Kok, one of Hong Kong's busiest shopping areas. The rioters attacked police officers and journalists, smashed police vehicles and committed arson.
Michael Li, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said the occupancy rate of local hotels immediately dropped as a result.
Some tourists wanted to change their hotel or even cancelled their orders after the riot, Li said.
He added that the occupancy rate during the holiday was about 80 percent, but prices fell by about 15 to 20 percent.
Other tourism destinations, such as South Korea and Japan, have relaxed visa requirements and launched many shopping festival promotions in order to attract mainland tourists.
Wang Yi, from leading mainland online travel agent Ctrip, said that mainland tourists tend to prefer traveling further afield during Spring Festival as these destinations become easier and cheaper to visit.
More and more countries are implementing visa-free, visa on arrival and multiple-entry visa policies, and major airlines opened extra international routes during the holiday, she noted.
According to Ctrip, mainland tourists' top five destinations for overseas travel during the Lunar New Year holiday were Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, while Hong Kong ranked second last year.
According to Hong Kong's Immigration Department, 744,000 mainlanders visited Hong Kong in the first six days of the holiday, down 11.65 percent year-on-year.