Hong Kong Fills Tourism Post, Readies Campaign

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HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong Tourist Association unveiled a marketing campaign and appointed a new director of U.S. operations to lead its Los Angeles office.

Lily Shum, who currently is general manager of marketing communications at HKTA headquarters here, will take over as regional director for the Americas, which includes the U.S., Canada and South America, in June. In a previous North American stint for the HKTA, Shum opened the association's Canadian office in Toronto, where she worked for five years, and she also served in the association's Chicago and Los Angeles locations. Shum is taking over the Los Angeles post from Ken Lambert, who left the HKTA to become vice president of sales and marketing for Canadian chain Delta Hotels & Resorts.

The HKTA's new campaign, "Hong Kong, City of Life," has a budget of $13 million and is scheduled for a June rollout. "I think the first thing is to use this campaign to raise a higher profile and take advantage of the interest in Asia," Shum said. "We want to take advantage of that and the currency situation."

Besides promoting Hong Kong as a convenient stepping stone to travel bargains in the region, the drive seeks to re-brand the destination using five key points:

  • Hong Kong as a city with the most energetic people in the world.
  • Hong Kong as one of the world's five premier cities, along with New York, Tokyo, London and Paris.
  • Hong Kong as a city that offers the most concentrated diversity of experiences of any city in the world.
  • Hong Kong's new identity and era following the 1997 handover to China.
  • Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan city.
  • Shum said that the promotion of Hong Kong as being cosmopolitan will get the most play in Asia. In the U.S., Shum said she sees a wealth of opportunity.

    U.S. arrivals to the Special Administrative Region increased about 7% last year, while the beleaguered Asian economies caused a nosedive in regional tourism. Shum predicted that low air fares from carriers such as Cathay Pacific Airways, United Airlines and Northwest Airlines and the no-visa-required policy in place for U.S. visitors will lure more Americans.

    "Recently, prices have decreased significantly for the American market," Shum said, adding that Hong Kong-based wholesaler Holiday Hospitality and New-York based Pacific Delight are set to team up with the HKTA to offer low-priced packages to the destination. "It becomes affordable to a lot more people now," she said. "We used to target travelers with incomes of $100,000. Now we're targeting $75,000 or even lower because of the lower prices." With the addition of about 5,000 more hotel rooms in Hong Kong by the end of the year, Shum said, complaints about the high cost of accommodations should subside due to increased competition.

    North America also presents unique marketing difficulties to the HKTA, Shum said. "I see a challenge in the cost of distribution and communication because it's a huge market." The new director said she is prepared to battle some stubborn ideas many Americans have about Hong Kong. "I think there is a certain misconception among certain people," she said. "There are people who still don't know if Hong Kong is a colonial city or a Chinese city. We have to tell people nothing has changed except the flag and the defense. The place is still run by the Hong Kong police -- the Hong Kong people," she said.

    The HKTA's marketing plans will get a boost in June, when a series of government-sponsored consumer travel promotions head to New York, Washington and Seattle. Also, opening ceremonies will be held July 1 for Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok Airport. Flights will commence on July 6.

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