Tak­ing on the highs and lows of tourism

Hong Kong has al­ways been a tourist mag­net but a re­cent dip in vis­i­tor num­bers in­di­cates a need for Asia’s World City to pol­ish up its act, ac­cord­ing to the Tourism Board chief, So­phie He re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG -

Pe­ter Lam Kin-ngok, chair­man of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, be­lieves it is time for them to step up their game and fur­ther pro­mote the SAR to po­ten­tial vis­i­tors, as the industry is fac­ing chal­lenges and dif­fi­cul­ties now.

The Tourism Board, a gov­ern­ment-sub­vented body, was founded on April 1, 2001, and its ob­jec­tive is to sup­port the in­ter­ests of Hong Kong’s tourism in its en­tirety.

The gov­ern­ment an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary 2013 the ap­point­ment of en­ter­tain­ment mag­nate Lam as chair­man of the Tourism Board.

Prior to this, Lam — who is chair­man and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of mega Chi­nese-lan­guage en­ter­tain­ment provider Me­dia Asia Group Hold­ings Ltd — served on the tourism body’s board of di­rec­tors for six years and as chair­man of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Event and Prod­uct Com­mit­tee since 2009.

Of­fi­cial data for re­cent months show that the tourism industry has been fac­ing its most dif­fi­cult time in the eight years or so, Lam pointed out, with vis­i­tor num­bers post­ing year-on-year de­clines in June, July and Septem­ber.

Lam ad­mit­ted that Hong Kong is feel­ing the pres­sure from fierce com­pe­ti­tion from other tourist des­ti­na­tions due to the de­pre­ci­a­tion of var­i­ous Asian cur­ren­cies in­clud­ing the ren­minbi, while the Hong Kong dol­lar has be­come stronger thanks to its peg to the US green­back.

That has made tourists look at other op­tions in Asia aside from Hong Kong, which means that the city’s ad­van­tage in the travel sec­tor is fad­ing.

“Most com­pa­nies and busi­ness own­ers in Hong Kong are very con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion, as the re­cent data on vis­i­tor num­ber as well as to­tal re­tail sales are far from ideal,” Lam said.

“Which is why the Tourism Board needs to step up in the sit­u­a­tion, to put more ef­forts into pro­mot­ing Hong Kong.”

Lam said that de­spite the re­cent set­backs, Hong Kong is still a very at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion for tourists, both from the Chi­nese main­land and the rest of the world.

Hong Kong has great food and it is known as a shop­ping par­adise as it is tax free, a fact that is al­ready front and cen­ter in trav­el­ers’ minds.

The first-ever “Hong Kong Cy­clothon” on Oct 10-11, as well as the “Hong Kong Wine & Dine Month” and the Oct 22-25 “Hong Kong Wine and Dine Fes­ti­val” are all part of the tourism body’s ef­forts aimed at at­tract­ing trav­el­ers this au­tumn, said Lam.

It will be the largest “Wine and Dine” event in years, he said, as wine is al­ways an im­por­tant draw for Hong Kong to pro­mote, since the city has zero al­co­hol tax, a very at­trac­tive propo­si­tion for wine con­nois­seurs.

Ac­tu­ally Hong Kong has al­ready be­come the sec­ond­largest red wine mar­ket in the world, he added.

“Let me paint you a pic­ture — when you come to Hong Kong, you can buy a very good bot­tle of wine while en­joy­ing al­most any dishes you like, French or Chi­nese cui­sine, your choice.”

As for the “Hong Kong Cy­clothon”, Lam said this year’s com­peti­tors were able to cy­cle across the Ts­ing Ma Bridge for the first time and com­pete while en­joy­ing the stun­ning views.

He also men­tioned that when the Hong Kong-ZhuhaiMa­cao Bridge is com­plete, the Tourism Board will or­ga­nize a cy­clothon where com­peti­tors will ride from Hong Kong to Zhuhai across the bridge and then to Ma­cao and back to Hong Kong, which will be a world-class event.

“We will con­tinue to work on new things, new projects to main­tain our at­trac­tive­ness to tourists,” said Lam.

“And hope­fully Oc­to­ber will be bet­ter as aside from the Na­tional Day Golden Week hol­i­day, there will be th­ese great events, and we can make a turn­around in the month.”

Lam has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in the com­mer­cial sec­tor. Apart from his role in Me­dia Asia, he is cur­rently chair­man of Lai Sun Group, deputy chair­man of Lai Sun Gar­ment (In­ter­na­tional) Ltd, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Crocodile Gar­ments Ltd and di­rec­tor of the Real Es­tate De­vel­op­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong.

He said his ex­pe­ri­ence in the com­mer­cial sec­tor helped him a lot in work­ing with the board, it has given him a per­spec­tive on what com­pa­nies need and what their con­cerns are.

It has also helped him re­al­ize

Al­though of­fi­cial data show that the industry con­trib­utes only about 4 per­cent of Hong Kong’s GDP, many other in­dus­tries are con­nected with the tourism sec­tor.

The tourism industry di­rectly em­ploys about 120,000 peo­ple, while the food and cater­ing, re­tail and trans­porta­tion sec­tors, as well as the air­port, are all closely con­nected to it. This means that peo­ple con­nected to the tourism industry could to­tal as much as 500,000 to 600,000.

Add in the fam­i­lies of th­ese peo­ple, and it is clear the tourism sec­tor has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the city’s for­tunes.

“I am so happy that I can be part of this industry, it means a lot to me,” Lam said.

He said he knows that many young­sters in Hong Kong are in­ter­ested in join­ing the vi­brant tourism industry some­day, and his ad­vice to th­ese am­bi­tious young peo­ple would be: Don’t be in­tim­i­dated by the hard work and long hours.

“Work­ing in this industry means you prob­a­bly won’t have reg­u­lar of­fice hours, tourists won’t just ar­rive be­tween 9:00 in the morn­ing and 6:00 in the evening, they may come at any time of the day and they may have var­i­ous de­mands, and it re­quires a lot of ef­fort to please tourists.”

It is a very chal­leng­ing industry for young peo­ple, but it is also very in­ter­est­ing.

“You will never for­get the feel­ing when a tourist is leav­ing Hong Kong and he tells you he had a great time in Hong Kong, this kind of feel­ing of achieve­ment — you don’t usu­ally find it else­where.”

Con­tact the writer at so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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