HONG KONG, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- When Song Xiaomeng, a 25-year- old teacher in Shanghai, discussed her travel plan for the upcoming seven-day National Day holiday with her friends, they raised such destinations as Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Australia for consideration, but without Hong Kong on the list.
"Hong Kong seems less appealing to us partly due to the lingering anti-mainland sentiment and its lack of new tourist attractions," Song said.
Song is not alone in holding such views. Hong Kong, for long one of the most popular destinations for mainlanders, saw slower growth of mainland tourist arrivals recently.
The number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong fell almost 10 percent in July, higher than the overall decline of 8.4 percent for the month, compared with the growth of 11.2 percent a year earlier, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said last week.
Even the Ocean Park, one of the most popular attractions as well as a must-see in Hong Kong, witnessed a 15-percent year-on- year plunge in tourist arrivals during the summer vacation.
In contrast, the Japan National Tourism Organization said 576, 900 Chinese mainlanders visited Japan in July, more than double the number in the same month last year.
Bad events usually have a domino effect. Retail sales in Hong Kong were also hit, falling 2.8 percent in July, the fifth straight month of decline, according to data from the Hong Kong Retail Management Association.
"Hong Kong's reputation as a shopping paradise has been put to the test," said Caroline Mak Sui-king, chairwoman of the Retail Management Association.
Jewelry shops and watch stores in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui have put up signs offering discounts of up to 50 percent in an effort to boost sales.
Luxury brands are also struggling. Burberry reported a double- digit drop in sales in Hong Kong over the past few months. Leather goods maker Coach shut one of its three flagship locations in Hong Kong last month to cut costs amid slowing sales.
Once sky-high rents tumbled accordingly. The rents of shops in bustling shopping districts fell 10.5 percent year on year during the first half of 2015, according to a report from Colliers International. The commercial real estate services organization forecast that the full-year decline would reach 15 percent.
Hotel room occupancy declined to 80 percent during the summer vacation, its lowest point in months, from the average level of 89 percent last year.
To lure tourists back, industry insiders called for new scenic spots and welcoming social atmosphere. Yiu Si-wing, director of China Travel Service and a member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong, said protests against tourists will do nothing but spoil the hospitable image of Hong Kong and dampen the region's economic growth.
Protests were still having an impact on tourists' desire to travel to Hong Kong, Travel Industry Council chief executive Joseph Tung Yao-chung noted. He urged Hongkongers to stop anti- visitor behavior and hoped that the government could create more tourist attractions to draw visitors.
For the rest of the year, the Hong Kong Tourism Board plans to stage a number of mega events to highlight Hong Kong's tourism strength, including the "Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival" in late October and "Hong Kong Winter Fest" in December.
"I may consider traveling to Hong Kong again if it will offer me a different and wonderful experience," Song said.