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2023-01-24 HKT 12:53
Executive Councillor Jeffrey Lam says he expects the number of mainland visitors to pick up after the Lunar New Year Holiday, and that they'll find a new-look SAR that could never be described as a "cultural desert".
In an exclusive interview with RTHK, the Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker said it's no surprise that relatively few travellers from the mainland have come here since quarantine-free travel resumed on January 8, given that many people had already made Lunar New Year plans.
Lam says he expects the flow of mainland visitors to pick up soon, given Hong Kong's new attractions.
"We have the Hong Kong Palace Museum and the M+ museum. Tourists want to bring their families here...Hong Kong really has a lot to offer," he said, referring to new attractions at the West Kowloon Cultural District opened in the past two years.
Immigration Department figures show that more than 200,000 Hong Kong people crossed to the mainland in a little over a week after the January 8 reopening, while 140,000 people travelled south in the same period.
But Lam says he expected the visitor flow to pick up shortly, saying Hong Kong has something for everyone. He also expects foreign visitors to come to explore the various theme parks, and diverse food options.
Aside from tourism, Lam says that consumption vouchers, and tax refunds are necessary to revitalise the economy in next month's budget.
He says it doesn't matter how big the spending voucher is, people will be happy to receive it.
"When an environment changes, everyone tries to head in a positive direction. If giving more money means raising morale, I think it's not a big deal," he said.
"It's not like the money isn't leaving their pockets. The money circulates around our society."
Financial Secretary Paul Chan said on Sunday he was hearing different views on spending vouchers, with some politicians calling for new handouts and others expressing concern about government finances.
Lam says he hopes that the government will also help small local businesses cope with the present difficult economy by providing interest-free loans.
"Is there no return for this money spent? Of course not! If [the government] helps these businesses make money, they will then pay taxes," he said.
"When the government asks why they received more tax money next January, it's because they are now receiving the money back from helping those businesses take off."