Hong Kong made a significant recovery in its tourism sector last year, with a total of about 212 million arrivals and departures recorded. This figure represents about 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level seen in 2019, according to Benson Kwok Joon-fung, director of the Immigration Department.
Tourists reached about 34 million, with mainland tourists accounting for about 26.76 million, marking a 70-fold increase compared to 2022.
The majority of visitors, about 25.67 million, entered Hong Kong through land checkpoints, which accounted for 75.5 percent of all arrivals. About 6.92 million arrived through the airport.
Kwok said last year marked a return to normality, with tourists again choosing the SAR as an ideal destination, adding the importance of strengthening the connection between Hong Kong and other cities in the Greater Bay Area and supporting integration in the development of country.
Regarding immigration control, he said that effective measures will be implemented at border control points according to the law.
“We will also assess national security risks when processing visa applications to prevent the entry of individuals who pose a threat, in accordance with Article 23 legislation.”
Kwok said every visa or entry application will be handled by immigration policies and laws, regardless of the applicants’ profession or field.
“This is not a blanket ban. We will process any visa application or entry under immigration laws and policies, regardless of [the applicants’] profession or field of work”, he said.
Deputy director (control, visas and documents) Ching Wo-mok said 23,171 people were refused entry last year, accounting for less than 0.07 percent of all incoming visitors – lower than in 2019, which was around 0.1 percent.
In various government schemes to lure talent, the department received more than 220,000 applications last year, with around 135,000 approved. About 90,000 people have arrived in the city.
Among them, 62,000 applications were received for the top talent pass scheme and nearly 50,000 were approved. Of the 4,800 applications received last month, nearly 98 percent have been approved.
Kwok said officials are looking for ways to fast-track applications.
He also said that over 300 additional staff will be deployed at border checkpoints to handle an estimated 7.5 million cross-border travelers during the Lunar New Year holiday.
“Around six million passenger journeys will be made through land border checkpoints, and the peak will be on Sunday and Wednesday, with around 460,000 and 600,000 journeys expected to take place respectively.”
Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge are expected to be busy, with an estimated daily traffic of 100,000 to 170,000 passenger trips each, with Lo Wu having the largest flow, Kwok said.
The department will reduce furloughs for frontline staff and deploy additional manpower – monitoring the situation for timely response and deployment, he added.
Kwok hoped that 15 minutes for each Hong Konger crossing the border would be preserved, believing that more than 700 electronic channels at border checkpoints are adequate.
Separately, the People’s Registration Office of Kwun Tong department will be moved to Tseung Kwan O on June 11. People can now make online appointments to apply for ID cards at the TKO office.
The new headquarters will be equipped with new kiosks for the submission and collection of travel documents, which will combine the functions of HKID and SAR passport applications.