HONG KONG -- While locals await the Disney theme park scheduled to
open here in 2005, tourism officials are busy crafting new
promotions, courting travel trade conventions and gearing up other
projects to boost Hong Kong's appeal as a leisure destination.
Notably, five new tourism "nodes" in the territory have been
designated for investment over five years in the interest of
"enhancing existing facilities and providing new attractions," Tung
Chee Hwa, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region, said at a recent meeting with foreign travel trade
As reported, the territory won its bid to host the ASTA World
Travel Congress in 2004, the first time the event will be held in a
foreign city since Strasbourg, France, in 1999. Encouraged by that
coup, Hong Kong now is pursuing other U.S. travel trade events.
These tourism developments are part of a larger effort that
encompasses port and rail expansion, quality of life improvements
and legislative moves to ensure freedom and autonomy in government
and business, officials said.
Capitalistic Hong Kong -- which was returned to the People's
Republic of China in 1997 -- faces new challenges posed by
competing Asian destinations, including a vibrant Chinese mainland,
noted Rebecca Lai, tourism commissioner for the Hong Kong Special
Indeed, rumors at the trade gathering had neighboring mainland
China city Shenzhen courting Universal Studios to build a theme
park to compete head-on with Disney's Hong Kong effort.
But Clara Chong, director of the Hong Kong Tourist Board (HKTB),
dismissed the story. "We hear rumors like that all the time, and if
our whole future relies solely on Disney, then I think we're in
deep trouble," she said.
Chong noted that competition comes not only from China but from
attractions in Thailand, Singapore and Japan. Instead, she added,
the city must look at its proximity to the mainland as an
"Hong Kong is the gateway to China, and we must focus on
strengthening that position," she said.
To that end, Tung announced that visas for visits to the
mainland would be more easily granted to the many foreigners
visiting Hong Kong who would like to join several package tours to
China's nearby Pearl River Delta.
The ASTA effect
In addition, Chong and her team are working on mainland China
itineraries for travel agent delegates attending the 2004 ASTA
"We'll work very closely with provincial tourist boards to
ensure people coming for the congress have as many options as
possible," she said.
The HKTB expects some 5,000 congress attendees to spend about
$1,410 each -- or $7.3 million total -- during their stay, but the
cumulative economic effect could be far greater, Chong said.
"ASTA is more important than any usual convention, because
travel agents are our front-line marketing mouthpieces overseas,"
she said. "If each one of them has a good experience and then sends
100 or even 10 visitors back, we're talking phenomenal
On the same note, the HKTB is submitting bids for upcoming
conventions to be held by AAA, American Express, Carlson Wagonlit
and the Virtuoso consortium.
Hong Kong officials said they hope to have many of the tourism
infrastructure upgrades ready in time for the 2004 ASTA
The Yam O area of Lantau Island -- site of the new Chep Lap Kok
Airport -- will be developed and integrated with the nearby
112-foot Big Buddha statue, the Tung Chung cable-car system and the
Tai O Village cultural attraction, in addition to the new Hong Kong
North of Kowloon, the countryside and harbor at Sai Kung will be
developed as a water-sports resort center -- more than 40% of Hong
Kong is rural country, said Chong -- while a new "culture belt"
will integrate museums and performance spaces in the Tsim Sha Tsui
district, with new venues in reclaimed west Kowloon. Construction
also will begin on a second cruise ship terminal in southeast
On Hong Kong Island proper, a new heritage, entertainment and
dining district will radiate from the renovated Central Police
Station to the Government House, St. John's Cathedral, Hollywood
Road and the Lan Kwai Fong corridor.
Finally, the Ocean Park theme park will be integrated into an
Aberdeen Harbor attraction that could include a trendy Fisherman's
Wharf, featuring al fresco dining and specialty retail venues.
For the long haul
Although known primarily as a shopping and dining mecca, Hong
Kong will continue its "City of Life: Hong Kong Is It!" campaign
well into the Chinese New Year, which begins Feb. 12.
Highlights of the effort, which will be heavily promoted to
long-haul markets such as the U.S., include the Hong Kong Lights Up
program -- during which much of the city's waterfront skyline is
lighted with festive holiday signage -- set to run until Feb. 26;
the International Chinese New Year Parade, scheduled for Feb. 12,
and the Hong Kong Flower Extravaganza, from March 4 to 17, which is
a new prelude to the annual Hong Kong Flower Show.
Future events also include the City of Life Street Carnival, an
open-air shopping, dining and performance event slated to begin in
"Shopping and dining are integral to any destination, but I
don't imagine a visitor will fly 15 hours because we're having a
big sale," said Chong. "It's experiences like the New Year Parade
that they go home and talk about."
Accordingly, the planned citywide Mega Hong Kong Sale set for
July and August will be promoted mainly to near-in markets such as
Taiwan and Japan.