Tourist arrivals from the Middle East to Hong Kong posted a strong 28.7 per cent growth last year over 1999, with arrivals from the UAE soaring by a whopping 80 per cent.
Since the September 11 attacks in the US however, tourism to the Chinese territory has slumped sharply. But this sharp fall has been cushioned somewhat by continuing growth from the Chinese Mainland. From the Middle East and Europe too, the fall has been more modest at 2.7 per cent.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board is pursuing a two-fold strategy to aid recovery of the travel market, Sue Whitehead, the board's representative in London, tells TTN.
Q. The tourism board in its press release dated October 23 has said there has been a moderate fall of 2.1 per cent in visitor arrivals in Hong Kong since the events of September 11 thanks to arrivals from mainland China. Looking ahead, does the board expect a recovery in the near term and what measures, if any, are planned to aid such recovery?
A. The timing and speed of the recovery will clearly depend to a great extent on world events over which we have no control.
In the meantime, our strategy is twofold: We continue to work with trade partners in tactical areas to maintain market presence and market share; and we are remaining flexible with our funding to support markets of strength and to return quickly and actively to other markets when consumer confidence is fully restored.
Q. Which is your target market in the Middle East? From what area of the region have you seen the maximum number of arrivals? Could you provide figures of Middle East and Gulf tourist arrivals over the past two years?
A. For 2000, the last full year for which we have figures, our total Middle East arrivals were 81,108 which represented a growth of 28.7 per cent over 1999. Our biggest markets in the region were Israel, Turkey, UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our biggest percentage growth was from the UAE at nearly 80 per cent growth.
The year 2000 was a record-breaking year for Hong Kong tourism. We welcomed over 13 million visitors, an increase of 15.3 per cent over the previous year, comfortably beating the previous record of 12.97 million visitors in pre-handover year, 1996.
These numbers took Hong Kong to 14th place in the WTO's overall rankings of world tourism arrivals - and Hong Kong was the only city destination in the top 15 ... all the others being countries.
Q. What new projects are currently underway to promote tourism? And have you seen an increase in tourist figures as a result of promotional campaigns undertaken by you over the past few years?
A. In April this year we launched a two year programme named "City of Life - Hong Kong is it"!.
The aim of this programme is threefold:
Next summer we have the Mega Hong Kong Sale in July and August. And in early 2003, we have the City of Life Street Carnival which will feature non-stop action day and night as Hong Kong welcomes a huge range of local and international entertainment.
Q. Are any specific promotions/activities planned by the board to fuel tourism growth from the Gulf and wider Middle East region?
A. We continue to work closely with the trade, most especially on training and familiarisation with the Hong Kong product. We also continue to support Arabian Travel Market as a good opportunity to reinforce our trade relationships across the region.
A new international exhibition centre is to be developed next to Hong Kong International Airport. Due for completion in December 2005 - it will eventually have 80,000 sq m of exhibition space.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.