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The tourist trade-off - Synovate survey reveals the costs and benefits of inbound tourism


25 September 2006 - HONG KONG — Japanese are considered the most courteous tourists and mainland Chinese the most impolite, but Hong Kong residents believe their fellow citizens should simply be friendlier towards all visitors according to a survey by global market research company Synovate.

As travel to Asian destinations continues to grow, Synovate surveyed 883 respondents in Hong Kong to determine the perceived benefits and costs of inbound tourism, the most irritating tourist behaviour and the least favoured tourist nations. A further 2,469 respondents were also surveyed in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

While a relatively modest 8% of respondents work in a job that is related to or benefits from tourism and 29% of locals state that they come into contact with tourists at least once a week, the Synovate survey shows how Hong Kong locals believe tourism impacts the community as a whole, from their hip pockets to their everyday way of life.

Tourism trade-offs

When asked to consider both the costs and benefits of tourism, 65% of Hong Kong respondents believe they are better off with tourism than without. Although the industry was well received in most countries surveyed, Singaporeans (75%) are more grateful for the tourist trade than their Hong Kong counterparts, while Thais (61%) and Indonesians (41%) are not as convinced of its blessings.

In terms of specific advantages, 62% of Hong Kong respondents seem to be financially driven, considering the additional jobs and improved economy that tourism brings with it big plusses. Fifty five percent also appreciate the less tangible benefits gained from increased cultural interaction, far lower than the regional average of 70%.

However, despite the broad support for tourism and an acknowledgement of the rewards it can bring, many residents also see its downside. Almost one quarter of the population in Hong Kong (24%) believe that there is far too much tourism at present and 44% agree that tourism has diluted the local culture.

One in five Hong Kong respondents dislike the large numbers of foreigners that spend their vacation exploring the fragrant harbour, with an additional 20% believing tourism places too much strain on local infrastructure.

Synovate Managing Director Hong Kong, Jill Telford, said that while some locals may find sharing their city a little testing at times, the survey shows that many residents would actually like more to be done to encourage tourism further.

“The level of tourism that Hong Kong receives can have its drawbacks but with 58% of residents of the belief that more should be done to encourage tourism, it’s clear that the majority of the population welcome visitors, and their wallets, with open arms,” she said.

Tourist perceptions

Although tourism is seen in a positive light by the majority of Hong Kong locals, some tourists are not. Seventy seven percent of all Hong Kong respondents named mainland Chinese as the least polite visitors followed by tourists from the Middle East (5%), India (4%) and Korea (4%).

At the other end of the tourist spectrum, Japanese visitors are considered the most polite by 45% of Hong Kong residents, consistent with the other countries surveyed, followed by Europeans (17%), Americans (10%) and British (10%).

When asked which tourist behaviour they find impolite, Hong Kong residents nominated spitting as the most offensive (45%) followed by damaging sights (18%) and not queuing up in an orderly fashion (13%).

Ms Telford said that although some tourist behaviour can offend Hong Kong locals, most residents understand the difficulties cultural differences can pose and hope their city is seen as a welcoming place to visit.

"Hong Kong residents are aware that good manners work both ways and, despite their gripes, 58% believe their fellow citizens should be friendlier towards visitors to Asia’s World City.

“Tourism may have its disadvantages, but most Hong Kong residents are very keen to make a good impression and happily share their streets with travellers from all nations, believing the benefits they bring far outweigh any inconveniences,” she added.

About Synovate

Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group plc, generates consumer insights that drive competitive marketing solutions. The network provides clients with cohesive global support and a comprehensive suite of research solutions. Synovate employs over 5,500 staff in 108 cities across 50 countries.

For more information on Synovate visit


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