Tourism is now firmly recognised as one of Hong Kong's most important industries, contributing billions in terms of foreign exchange earnings and helping to create thousands of new jobs in the hospitality, transport and retail sectors.
At present, tourists are continuing to flood into Hong Kong from around the world. Mainlanders are leading the way and, with travel restrictions for individuals being further eased, are expected to arrive in even larger numbers in the months ahead. Partly because of this, the Hong Kong Tourism Board is targeting a total of 27 million visitors this year, a significant increase on the annual record of over 23 million achieved in 2005.
Bill Calderwood, managing director of Skyrail-ITM (Hong Kong) Ltd, is confident that the local tourism sector will remain strong over the next few years. He notes, however, that visitors expect ever higher service standards — what he calls a "more than that" attitude — and that competition from other destinations in the region will intensify.
"This is inevitable because service plays a major role in this industry and Hong Kong will always have to compete with neighbouring countries to attract visitors," he explains.
Mr Calderwood believes that, in order to remain a leading destination for both the long- and short-haul markets, Hong Kong must keep developing new attractions. It is not enough simply to rely on the "traditional" things such as the harbour views, international cuisine and unrivalled opportunities for shopping.
"New attractions such as Ngong Ping 360 will add a new dimension for tourists and help to attract both first-time and return visitors," he says.
He is referring to the 5.7km cable car link being built between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. It will offer a 20 to 25 minutes aerial ride, giving visitors 360-degree panoramic views over North Lantau Country Park, the South China Sea, the airport and Tung Chung valley. The upward trip will culminate with a spectacular view of the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.
Skyrail-ITM (Hong Kong) Ltd is managing the project, which is being developed and financed by MTR Corporation Limited. Their partner, Skyrail, owns and manages one of Australia's best-known tourist attractions — the rainforest cableway near Cairns.
With plans to open in mid-2006 well on target, Mr Calderwood is in the process of putting together a diverse team of around 150 to operate the new facility. He realises that establishing a high level of service will be one of the key issues. "We expect our guests to enjoy a world-class experience," he says. "Therefore, our team must not only be guest-oriented, but should also be ready to put the guest first in whatever they do."
Mr Calderwood says that the company is looking for frontline operations staff with relevant experience in the tourism or hospitality sectors. Applicants should be bright and outgoing, ready to work hard, and able to fit in with a company culture that aims to deliver exceptional services and exceed expectations.
The general recruitment policy is to pay more attention to a candidate's attitude and potential than to specific educational qualifications. "Also, we offer equal employment opportunities to all applicants," Mr Calderwood says.
New recruits will receive comprehensive training, including an induction programme, guest service training and statutory and safety-related training. This will be followed by specific training provided by different departments, such as in cableway operations, reservations, and ticketing, and retail operations.
"We are sure that the Ngong Ping 360 will soon become an iconic must-do experience for every visitor to Hong Kong," Mr Calderwood says.
Qualities required in the tourism industry
- Service-oriented and outgoing personality
- Good communication skills in English and Chinese
- Willing to face challenges and strive for improvement
- Commitment to the job
- Looking to build a career in the sector
- Hong Kong is targeting a total of 27 million tourist
arrivals this year
- The Ngong Ping 360 cable car, due to open in mid-2006,
will be an exciting new attraction
- Preferably, new recruits will have experience in the tourism
or hospitality sectors
- Comprehensive training will be given in guest services
and specialist skills