Hong Kong enters next phase of 'revival' effort

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HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong Tourism Board last month launched a worldwide tourism marketing campaign amid signs of an economic recovery -- helped by a tourism rebound -- following the SARS outbreak.

Dubbed "Live It, Love It," the initiative is the second phase of Hong Kong's so-called "revival campaign" to encourage tourists to return to the territory.

Hong Kong's new An outbreak of SARS hit Hong Kong between March and May, claiming 299 lives and sickening 1,755. It inflicted major losses on Hong Kong's economy. The territory was declared SARS-free by the World Health Organization on July 23.

The new campaign follows the "Hong Kong Welcomes You" promotion that ran from July to mid-September. That campaign helped Hong Kong achieve month-to-month increases in tourist arrivals, culminating in a 9.6% increase in arrivals in August compared with August 2002.

"The objective of the first phase was to rebuild confidence," said Clara Chong, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board. "The objective of the new campaign is to reinforce Hong Kong's position as a diverse, cosmopolitan city."

The $16 million "Live It, Love It" campaign includes television, print and radio advertising featuring action film star Jackie Chan greeting visitors in several languages. The campaign is scheduled to run through March in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

In addition to the media component, Hong Kong has plans for a "mega-event" every month featuring a different cultural theme.

Among the events planned are an international musical fireworks competition in October, Winterfest from mid-November to December and the International Chinese New Year's Night Parade in January.

The campaign will be supported by a series of road shows and trade activities in major feeder markets.

Chong said although Hong Kong's economy shrank in both the first and second quarters of the year, the Hong Kong government has raised its full-year Growth Domestic Product (GDP) forecast for 2003 to 2.0% from 1.5%.

Next year, Chong said, the economy is projected to grow by as much as 5%.

Chong said Hong Kong is poised for a major hotel expansion to accommodate an anticipated increase in visitors from mainland China. This year, Hong Kong expects to welcome almost 8 million mainland tourists, rising to 10 million in 2004.

Under an agreement between Hong Kong and China signed in June, residents of Shanghai, Beijing and seven cities in the Guangdong prov-ince are allowed to visit Hong Kong as individuals, without having to go as part of a sanctioned group.

To accommodate the increase, the Hong Kong government announced it will expedite the approval process for hotel projects by simplifying the necessary documentation and speeding up the land-premium negotiation process.

Hong Kong has more than 42,000 hotel rooms, with another 12,000 expected to be completed within the next two years. Another 20,000 rooms are expected to open within the next five years.

Chong said Hong Kong plans to open the International Exhibition Center in late 2005. The facility will be located next to Hong Kong Airport, doubling the convention and exhibition space in Hong Kong.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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