Expanding Hong Kong’s Individual Visit Scheme: A Call for Inclusion of More Mainland Cities

Hong Kong’s tourism industry is advocating for an expansion of the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) to include more mainland Chinese cities. The IVS, established in 2003, permits residents from 49 mainland cities to visit Hong Kong individually, as opposed to being part of tour groups. However, the scheme has not been expanded since 2007, and industry figures believe it’s time for a change.

Alan Chan Chung-yee, the Chief Operations Officer of Miramar Group, which operates two local hotels, has voiced his support for the expansion. He highlighted that daily flights and train services are already in operation between Hong Kong and 26 mainland cities not currently included in the IVS. Seventeen of these cities are accessible via the high-speed rail link, and nine have direct flights to Hong Kong. Chan argues that not expanding the IVS to include these cities is a missed opportunity.

The call for expansion is also supported by Perry Yiu, a lawmaker from the tourism sector, who believes that Hong Kong has the capacity to accommodate more overnight visitors. In 2023, Hong Kong welcomed 34 million visitors, with mainland China accounting for over 26.7 million of these. The city’s tourism recovery is also evident in the Southeast Asian market, with visitor numbers from the Philippines and Thailand in December surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Despite the potential benefits, the expansion of the IVS has been a topic of debate. Past officials have expressed concerns about the sufficiency of infrastructure and the potential disruption to the daily lives of Hong Kong residents due to an increase in visitors. However, with half of all visitors in the previous year choosing to stay overnight, the potential economic benefits of an expanded IVS cannot be ignored.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Individual Visit Scheme (IVS)?
The Individual Visit Scheme is a program introduced in 2003 that allows residents from certain mainland Chinese cities to visit Hong Kong individually, rather than as part of a tour group.

2. How many cities are currently included in the IVS?
As of now, the IVS includes 49 mainland Chinese cities.

3. What is the proposed change to the IVS?
Industry figures are advocating for the inclusion of an additional 26 mainland cities in the IVS, which are already connected to Hong Kong via daily flights and train services.

Individual Visit Scheme (IVS): A program that allows residents from certain mainland Chinese cities to visit Hong Kong individually, rather than as part of a tour group.
Mainland China: The area under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau.
Tourism Sector: An industry that deals with the business of providing services to tourists, including accommodations, transportation, and attractions.