New initiatives promote steady growth in tourism

by Susanna Tai

Clara Chong, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board

The tourism sector continues to create knock-on benefits for other industries

Hong Kong's tourism sector may sometimes be spoken of as an industry that stands on its own but, in practical terms, the dividing lines are not that clear.

"The tourism, aviation, hospitality and retail industries are closely interrelated," says Clara Chong, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). She notes that, as tourism expands, it automatically provides new business opportunities for airlines, hotels, restaurants and many kinds of store.

Figures provided by the HKTB support the point. In 2005, Hong Kong recorded over 23 million inbound tourists and more than 7.8 million of those travellers arrived by air. The overall rate of hotel occupancy reached 86 per cent and the per capita spending of overnight visitors was HK$4,663.

Ms Chong notes that the opening of new attractions such as the Hong Kong Wetland Park, Ngong Ping 360 and three new facilities at Hong Kong Disneyland will increase Hong Kong's appeal to visitors and, in particular, family groups. In addition, the city is continuing to attract large numbers of business visitors, many of whom are looking to secure deals in China.

"Business people travelling to the mainland still tend to regard Hong Kong as an important stop," she says. With AsiaWorld Expo opening in April this year and running many large-scale exhibitions, this pattern seems sure to continue.

Solo travel

The success of the "individual visitor" scheme has also contributed to the growth of mainland visitor arrivals. Currently, 44 mainland cities are part of the scheme, which has made it possible for mainlanders to visit Hong Kong under their own arrangements.

New opportunities will follow the signing in June of supplementary agreements under CEPA (the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) between the Hong Kong and mainland governments. These are designed to promote the trade and services sectors and make it easier for Hong Kong and Macau investors to enter the mainland's domestic market as from January 2007.

Under the new measures, Hong Kong travel agencies in Guangdong province will be allowed to apply to run tour groups to Hong Kong for Guangdong residents on a pilot basis. "The new policy will enhance tourism development, " Ms Chong says. "We are expecting to register stable growth in future." In fact, about 53 per cent of visitors to Hong Kong in 2005 were from mainland China.

More rooms

According to the HKTB, in March 2006, Hong Kong had 117 hotels with a total of 42,778 rooms. Forecasts say the respective numbers will increase to 142 and 53,888 in 2007. "New tourist attractions will support business for the hotels which, in turn, will offer a lot of new employment opportunities," Ms Chong says.

She adds that the impact from Macau's fast growing tourism sector is positive rather than negative. "The HKTB has been working closely with the travel trade to develop multi-destination itineraries including Hong Kong, Macau and other cities in the Pan Pearl River Delta region."

The HKTB has a worldwide network of 21 offices and representatives which keep a close eye on global tourism trends and suggest promotions to target different market segments. "Our role is to promote Hong Kong to overseas visitors and enhance their experience here. Meanwhile, we cooperate with the government and other industry partners to reinforce Hong Kong's position as one of the must-visit destinations included in visitors' itineraries to Asia or China, " Ms Chong explains.

Into the future

  • New attractions, such as the Hong Kong Wetland Park, add to the portfolio of family attractions
  • Many business travellers still regard Hong Kong as the gateway to China
  • Mainland tourists have taken advantage of the "individual visitor" scheme
  • Competition from Macau should be seen in a positive light

Taken from Career Times 04 August 2006
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