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Hong Kong Feb retail sales rise 1.9% as tourism extends recovery By Reuters

© Reuters. Mainland Chinese travellers on low-cost tours walk to a tourist bus after lunch at To Kwa Wan in Hong Kong, China March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

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HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong’s retail sales rose for the 15th straight month in February boosted by continuing growth in tourism and consumption, official data showed on Wednesday.

Sales in February rose 1.9% from a year earlier to HK$33.8 billion ($4.32 billion), the Hong Kong government said. That compared with 0.9% growth in January, 7.8% rise in December and 15.9% jump in November.

“As handling capacity continues to recover and more mega events are staged, inbound tourism is expected to revive further and benefit the retail sector,” a government spokesman said.

The government’s initiatives in boosting consumption sentiment should also provide support, the spokesman added.

In terms of volume, retail sales increased 0.5% in February. That compared with January’s 1.2% fall, the first decline in volume terms since December 2022, when it slipped 0.6%. It grew 4.8% in December 2023 and was up 12.4% in November.

Hong Kong’s economy is expected to grow 2.5% to 3.5% this year after expanding 3.2% in 2023 as the city struggles to revive its economy following the COVID-19 pandemic while battling mounting deficits and economic headwinds.

The government plans to roll out support measures of more than HK$1 billion ($127 million) for the beleaguered tourism industry, staging more than 80 “mega events” such as fireworks and drone shows in the year’s first half to lure visitors.

Chinese cities of Xian and Qingdao also joined a travel scheme allowing residents to make personal visits to Hong Kong, rather than in tour groups. The scheme took effect from March 6, taking to 51 the total of Chinese cities whose residents are eligible to apply for individual travel.

February visitor arrivals stood at 4.0 million, data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board showed. That compared with 3.83 million in January and 1.46 million in February 2023.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors rose to 3.25 million in February from January’s 2.98 million, December’s 2.94 million and 1.11 million in February 2023.

Sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts, bought mostly by mainland tourists before the pandemic, fell 3.6% in February on year after 22.8% growth in January, data showed.

Sales of clothing, footwear and accessories grew 12.3% in February after an increase of 2.7% in January.

($1 = 7.8286 Hong Kong dollars)

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