Anthony Lau is executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, in charge of bringing visitors to the former British colony, now administered by the People's Republic of China. Lau spoke in Hong Kong about the new Kai Tak cruise terminal and other developments with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst.
Q: What makes Hong Kong unique?
A: It is a unique living culture. Hong Kong was a British colony for a very long time. Half of the population is Chinese. We have a Chinese and a British culture that's all mixed together, and that sets us apart from mainland China and also from the rest of the region.
Q: The new Kai Tak cruise terminal is scheduled to open in June. What will that do for cruise tourism in Hong Kong?
A: I think it is going to be a tremendous boost. With the new terminal, we can obviously accommodate some of the largest cruise ships in the world, which we couldn't in the past, and it also increased our berthing capacity. Together Kai Tak and Ocean Terminal and another terminal called China Merchant Docking Area, all three can really complement each other and come together and accommodate different types of ships. So that really helps us to push the capacity, hence more ships coming to Hong Kong and more passengers going on cruises from Hong Kong.
Q: If the cruise passenger comes to Hong Kong, what is there to do in the short amount of time that they might be here?
A: Hong Kong is a shopping paradise. Second, in maybe half a day, you can really walk around our city and be able to look at the buildings and historical sites. The third one I would recommend is, try our walking trails. Hong Kong is known as a city, but the hidden treasure really is our green side. Actually 60% of Hong Kong territory is covered by green, and there are numerous trails just 20 minutes away from the city. So, grab a cab at the cruise terminal and in 20 minutes' time, you're in another world.
Q: What advantages as a gateway to the Far East does Hong Kong enjoy?
A: Hong Kong for a long time has been the gateway to China. We are visa-free for over 170 countries. Coming to Hong Kong is like, pack your bag, get your passport and come. Hong Kong is also an air hub. Every week we have over 7,000 flights coming from all parts of the world. The air connectivity is just tremendous, and that is why Hong Kong can be a cruise hub. Hong Kong is also an exceptionally safe city. So you can go out in the evening, wine, dine and eat out, come home at 3 o'clock in the morning, and you don't have to worry about a thing.
Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.