Sat, 14 Dec 2002

From: Jawawa

Sudibyo M. Wiradji Contributor Jakarta

Various tour packages cater to travelers' needs

For many years, Hong Kong has been a favorite destination for overseas travelers, including Indonesians, who go there not only for business but also for holidays.

A former colony of the United Kingdom that became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong enjoys a highly reputed status as a trade, financial, logistics and digital hub, which boasts of being Asia's most unique fusion of East and West.

It entices visitors with its superb cuisine, exciting celebrations and festivals, a rich tradition of art and culture and world-class shopping with an unparalleled array of goods and services.

It's no wonder that Eddy Fendy, an operational director of Avia Tour, said: "Hong Kong has become an important transit city for Indonesians visiting Far East countries like China, Korea or Japan."

Tour packages from Indonesia to other Asian countries have been in high demand following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S..

"That tragedy led many Western countries to impose tighter immigration regulations, such as on the issuance of visas. And this has caused Asia to become a more preferable tourist destination," an executive of a local travel agent said.

According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), visitor arrivals in September of this year totaled 1.37 million, a 30 percent increase from the same month in 2001.

However, that encouraging figure needs to be seen in the context of last year's terrorist attacks in the U.S., which sent arrivals plummeting during the second half of that month.

"Nevertheless, the cumulative figures of January through to September confirm that the growth trend remains very strong," the board said.

Visitor arrivals for the first nine months of 2002 totaled 11.74 million, a 16 percent increase from the same period in 2001.

Tourist arrivals to Hong Kong from South Asian and Southeast Asian countries experienced a growth of 7.4 percent in 2001. Despite the 10.2 percent drop in the number of arrivals from Indonesia during the whole of 2001, Hong Kong saw a 46.1 percent increase in the number of arrivals from Indonesia in December of that year.

The visa exemption for travelers planning to stay in Hong Kong for less than two weeks has been cited as a contributing factor in the increase of Indonesian visitors to the city. But there are other reasons, too.

December is the height of the peak season and there will be many tourists spending their holidays in Hong Kong to celebrate Christmas and bring in the New Year.

Several travel agents in Jakarta have witnessed an increase in demand for year-end tour packages which include Hong Kong on the travel itinerary. Especially this month, Hong Kong is considered "fat", an industry term that means a destination is lucrative because it attracts many customers.

But the tour packages that have Hong Kong as the featured destination vary in terms of prices, length and accommodation, depending on the travel agent.

Several travel agents are offering tour packages of between three to four days for only Hong Kong. Others include Hong Kong as part of their Asian tour packages that go to several tourist destinations in Thailand, Korea, China and Japan.

Travelers can join either individual packages or a group package tour. An individual package with one or two persons is not strict in terms of time.

Individual packages usually include a return flight ticket, and accommodation, but at the request of customers, it can also incorporate tour programs. Group tour packages, meanwhile, include a return flight ticket, accommodation, airport transfers plus a city tour. Group tour packages offer a scheduled itinerary and a tour leader, who accompanies travelers on the tours.

The Satriavi travel agency, located at Jl. Thamrin No. 5, Jakarta, offers, for an example, a four-day tour package to Hong Kong for between US$777 and $880.

WITA Tour & Travel, with its head office at Jl. Balikpapan No. 5, Jakarta, offers an eight-day package from Jakarta to Bangkok, Pattaya and Hong Kong for $1,370 and a nine-day Asian Hong Kong Tour package that takes travelers to Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong for $1560. It also offers a 12-day tour of Korea, Japan and Hong Kong for $3520. The package allows sightseers to stay in Hong Kong for three days and two nights.

Avia Tour on Jl. Bungur Besar in Central Jakarta offers several choices, with the length of travel ranging from seven to nine days.

Its nine-day tour package to Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong costs $1,250, while its eight-day Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong tour retails for $1,088.

Agents are also offering an overland package from Hong Kong to China for seven days for $1,069, which includes a flight ticket from Jakarta to Hong Kong.

Travel agents generally require would-be travelers to pay a deposit of 10 percent of the total package fare. These packages normally exclude flight or travel insurance. Obligatory flight insurance usually ranges from 10 percent to 20 percent or between $10 and $35, depending on the airline.

Travel insurance is usually handled by an insurance company, and is optional. Travel insurance usually costs between 15 percent and 40 percent of the package's value, depending on the type of coverage desired. In general, travel insurance is about $25. Packages from several travel agents also exclude airport taxes of between 20 percent and 30 percent.

If you sign up for a tour package that includes other cities such as Shen Zhen, for instance, you are required to obtain a visa, which costs Rp 160,000 per person.

When it comes to places of interest in Hong Kong, there are certain sights included in the city tour, which are a must-see. These include Victoria Peak, Repulse Bay, Ocean Park, Madame Tussaud's, a museum that houses waxed miniatures of world figures, Window on the World, a miniature world of tourist spots and China's Folk Cultural Village. Several travel agents also include a visit to Shen Zhen on the program.

Local travel agents have said that demand for year-end tour packages to Hong Kong had increased significantly this month.

An executive at the Satriavi travel agency said travel agents had noticed a 50 percent increase in demand for tour packages to Hong Kong ahead of the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

The demand for Hong Kong tour packages have come mostly from individual requests. "The increase in demand is partly because it is difficult to obtain a visa for those wishing to travel to other countries," the executive said.

At least 50 groups, each comprising 20 to 50 people, will join tour packages offered by Wita Tour & Travel. "Sixty percent of the travelers are repeat customers," the agent's spokesperson said, adding that more bookings were expected to come in the middle of the month.

Avia Tours has also seen an increase in orders for its Hong Kong tour packages. Eddy Fendy said there had been an increase in the number of travelers to Hong Kong since the Idul Fitri holiday.