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Express Rail Link Guilin with Hong Kong Will Boost Tourism

Many local residents have expressed interest in traveling to the mainland by high-speed train since the special administrative region government announced last week that the Hong Kong section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link will officially begin operation on Sunday, Sept 23. Such enthusiasm in experiencing XRL rides came as no surprise at all because many people had already tried it by taking tourist buses to Shenzhen and boarding high-speed trains to their destinations from there.

Some local travel agencies, as expected, are now planning XRL tours during peak seasons, when commercial flights to popular destinations can be really hard to book. Given the very few XRL departures from Hong Kong to major mainland cities like Beijing and Shanghai initially, travel agencies are looking mainly at destinations closer to Hong Kong right now, such as Guilin, Wuhan and Xiamen, which normally take five or six hours to reach.

According to conventional wisdom in modern travel, trains are best for medium-haul routes with a lot of scenery along the way, because long-haul rides take much more time but cost almost the same or even more than flights do. The XRL is designed to link Hong Kong with the nationwide high-speed railway network, but it will take some time for businesses to develop services that will capitalize on the new means of travel.

Local travel agencies are focusing on closer XRL tour destinations because there will be far more medium-haul departures to Guangdong and surrounding regions than long-haul trips further north and east when it opens for business late next month. Such arrangements are standard practice with newly opened rail lines. How many long-haul trains from Hong Kong will be added and when depends on the average occupancy on each route, which will begin with just one to Beijing a day, for instance.

The advantage of the XRL may not be apparent for all to see in the beginning and that is simply normal. Those who are looking forward to visiting all the popular tourist spots on the high-speed railway network in the future need to be patient and start with the ones closer to Hong Kong first. That is how market economy works and the operator of the XRL, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation, will run it just as another business venture. That means the MTRC must do its best to break even with the XRL as soon as possible. That should not be too hard considering the public response so far.

In addition to the trunk lines, the XRL will also connect Hong Kong with the regional inter-city high-speed rail transport system that is taking shape in the Pearl River Delta as we speak. It will be an important piece of infrastructure serving people and businesses in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area city cluster, also known as a one-hour-travel living circle. It is conceivable that cross-boundary economic activities, particularly tourism, will get a big boost from the operation of XRL.

"I am going to do everything possible so that my birthplace becomes a destination that contributes to the development of tourism and the human relations between our two countries," Qiu added.

In 2017, 520 million tourists visited Guangxi, including 5 million foreigner visitors.